Saints Peter and Paul Church, San Francisco

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This page answers questions about sexuality. Other questions are sorted by subject matter at the pages below.

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On January 30, we received these questions:

Dear Fathers,

I have met a divorced man and would like to date the person. I am a widow who is active in my church. Would dating this perosn keep me from receiving Communion at Mass?

Thanks you for your help.

Fr. Harold answers:

Dear Carole,

Just being friendly with someone and doing things together without sexual intimacy, by itself does not keep one from the Sacraments. However, taking the long view, if the purpose of dating is in view of the ultimate possibility of entering marriage, some research has to be done before things get serious.

Is the divorced person Catholic? or his ex-wife? Were they married in a Catholic church? or civilly? If both are not Catholic and married, then inspection of the full circumstances might be undertaken to see if there was anything present at the beginning of the marriage which made it invalid to start with.

Blessings and peace!

Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB


On May 29-June 5, we received these questions:

Hello again Father,

I have spoken to both a parish priest from my diocese in NY and to my fiance (whom I address as husband, and he addresses me as his wife). We will be meeting with a priest from the parish closest to us now, as we live in another state. I'm sure all my questions will be addressed as well as his, but I would appreciate and value your feedback to the following issues. I'm not sure how long it will take to be in contact with the new parish in respect to getting more in depth with religion and Catholic teachings. My husband has many many questions which I cannot always answer, despite my religious upbringing and lifelong Catholic school education (all the way to college).

As I mentioned before, I made a promise to God and our Blessed Mother that I would help him find his faith again, so I am doing all I can. One big issue aside from his lying has been his addiction to pornography. His ex wife condoned and even pushed it on him but that sort of stuff has no business in a true, loving, Christian relationship. He knows I am against it and I see that he has gotten a lot better about not watching it, but he still doesn't understand why it is wrong. I threw his entire porn collection away when i found it in his old house which he & his ex wife used to live in. It hurts me so much that he watched any of this during our relationship, and i dont know how else to handle it. I feel that a great deal of his behavior has to do with his loss of respect for all churches and lack of faith. His mom blames his ex wife for this too because that is when he changed. He has not attended his services since he married that woman, except for a few times that I brought him to my parish. He questions God, thinks every bad thing that happens is because "God is up there laughing and getting a kick out of us." ...... His dad died when he was 10 and I know that affected him greatly. He also says that when he would ask his pastors questions about religion they would simply tell him "that's just the way it is." His stepdad was Catholic but converted to Methodist when he married his mom.

So my questions are these:

1. How do I help my husband understand that porn and checking other women out is wrong?

2. How can I help him find his way to our Lord in a manner that does not make him feel like I am pushing Catholicism on him?

Respectfully,

Grace

Fr. Malloy answers:

Grace,

Porn will break up the strongest of marriages. You would be better off if you withheld vows until he promises to seriously try to cure his addiction.

Certainly, the marriage will not be blessed if he refuses to change. God will not be part of the union. Its durability is doomed to failure.

You can’t do it alone. You can’t push Catholicism on him, but you can demand that he keep the law of God and his country, as long as he wants a relationship with you. He can’t love you and porn at the same time!

Rev. John Malloy, SDB


On May 15, we received these questions:

Father My Name Is Alondra And I Want To Ask You A Very Important Question I'm In Love With My Cousin And He's In Love With Me. We Are Madly In Love And We Would Give Up Our Lifes For Each Other But My Family Is Againist It And Dont Let Us See Each Other We Want To Be In A Relationship But Our Family Members Wont Let Us Not Even Speak To Each Other. Is My Family Doing The Right Or Wrong Thing ?

Fr. Malloy answers:

Alondra,

Cousins cannot validly marry. Not according to canon 1091.2, which says marriages are invalid up to and including the fourth degree.

When it comes to the biological relationship between prospective spouses, the Church has laws which are based on natural law. We all know that geneticproblems tend to arise in children whose parents are too closely related by blood. Canon law is therefore simply reflecting what nature (i.e., God) intended.

Twenty five states also prohibit such marriages.

Fr. John Malloy, SDB


I am a 21 year old college student who is in a long-term relationship, practicing abstinince until marriage. I am a cradle Catholic who has just recently began to have a personal relationship with God, being out on my own and attending a Christian group at my university that has challenged and encouraged my faith in a new way.

I always knew the official stance of the church on birth control, but I did not realize the serious gravity of it until recently when it has come to light in the media. I always thought I would use it with my husband until we were ready to be parents, but there was no doubt that we want children. But now that I have researched so much, I am afraid of going to hell.

I know that my parents use it, as well as a number of good friends who are Protestant. I have just gotten obsessed with it and feel like I can't enjoy life because I am too busy worrying about the fates of people I love, and mine, as well as obsessively researching online. I have spent 5 hours online, reading, this evening alone (which is actually how I found your website) and my final exams at school suffered this week due to my being side-tracked from studying.

I can definitely understand the teaching of the church on contraception, I think it makes a lot of sense, but a part of me believes that we can be stewards of the Lord's gifts. I am completely against anything that could cause any sort of abortion in any form. I see conflicting views about whether the sole purpose of sex is procreation, even among Catholic priests. It's just a lot to take in and sort through. I hope you don't think I am being disrespectful from personally having a bit of a different opinion, but it does not necessarily mean that I think I am right and the church is wrong, or that I will act out of my own beliefs.

I have been turning to prayer and my Bible, while keeping in mind the teaching of the church trying to put my mind at ease, but I can't stop worrying. I don't have a priest that I would feel comfortable discussing this issue with at this point.

Also, my boyfriend is Protestant and I am not sure what he would think of the NFP method. I just feel so confused and wonder whether I should just be single forever, rather than have to deal with this problem.

I just want to live with Christ forever. It is undoubtedly a tough road and not meant to be easy.

Do you have any advice for me?

Thank you,

Worried

Fr. John Malloy answers:

Worried,

I see you are aware of NFP. Take courage, it works. You can have sex without sin when you watch your cycle and engage in sex accordingly

Where there is true love the partners can enjoy liberated sex. Couples who have practiced this have noted the great peace and joy it brings. NFP Respects your body and your health and is morally acceptable to all major religions. It Increases the strength of & intimacy within marriage It's such a positive, natural, and healthy approach to sexuality within marriage.

Don’t judge other people or worry about them. God is merciful and certainly does not want anyone to die in mortal sin. But you are called to a higher standard.

Even non-religious people use NFP because it brings true love.

Fr. John Malloy, SDB


On May 9, we received this question:

I Really Dont Want To Give My Name But Father Can You Please Awnser My Question ? I'm A Catholic And I'm In Love With My Cousin And He Also Loves Me Very Deeply. We Have Also Had Sex And I Want To Know If What I'm Doing Is Wrong.

Fr. Malloy answers:

You are doing wrong on two accounts:

Sex out without marriage is wrong,

Sex with a cousin is wrong.

In order to marry a cousin a special dispensation is needed.

Rev. John Malloy, SDB


On January 20, we received this question:

 Hello Fathers,

I have a question I am hoping you can answer. I was raised with no specific religion and was never baptized. I am an adult now (30)and over many years have thought about becoming Catholic. It became more important to me as I have gotten older and decided to sign up for the RCIA program in September of 2011. When I signed up I was living with my boyfriend who is a fully Confirmed Catholic, although I had already wanted to become Catholic before ever meeting him. He has actually been attending the RCIA classes with me and we both enjoy them. We have also been attending Mass regularly. We recently got engaged (happened after signing up for RCIA) and have decided to be married in October of 2012. The plan was that I will have been Baptized, received my First Communion and Confirmation at Easter Vigil this year so by the time of the wedding we would both be Confirmed Catholics. It is very important for both of us to be married in the Catholic Church. This is the first marriage for both of us. There has now been some discussion that because I am living with my boyfriend, I may not be able to receive Confirmation, unless we are willing to marry before the Easter Vigil ceremony. Essentially we will need to be married now and then I will be Baptized, receive first Communion and Confirmation. The problem we have with this, is that we have already planned our wedding for October and want the full ceremony with all our family. We don't want to feel rushed and I want to be able to receive Communion on my wedding day. My question is...is there anything we can do? Can we live separately now and go forward with the Sacraments as planned. I get Baptized and Confirmed and not live together until our wedding in October? Do I postpone all my Sacraments and continue with the wedding and take RCIA again next year after we are already married? Do we have any options? It is very important for us to start the marriage right and we really don't want to be married now and then have another "ceremony" in October for the rest of the family. If we were to do that, can the Church even marry us twice?

Thank you so much for your guidance.

- E

Fr. Malloy responds:

E.D.,

You have the solution:

Avoid any sexual relations and live apart until your wedding. Meantime complete the RCIA and receive the Sacraments.

Rev. John Malloy, SDB


On January 10, 2012 we received these questions:

Fathers:

I have struggled with sexual relations with my wife for many years. We have been married for 20 years and have seven children together and over the years my wife has lost her desire for sex. She still enjoys sexual relations when we engage in them, and can still reach a climax. However, she doesn’t have the desire for sexual relations and is fine with skipping it for long periods of time. She has sought medical attention for this issue and it has been suggested that her lack of desire is physiological. And although her lack of desire for sexual relations may be physiological, it causes me significant moral struggles. I don’t want to make light of the situation, but I have told myself that her condition is either going to lead me to sainthood or lead me to eternal damnation. I don’t want my desire to be with her sexually and my pain from not feeling fully loved by her to overshadow my desire to follow Christ.

I desire to be with her sexually and when we are, I desire to please her sexually. Even if I do not reach a climax, I desire to make sure she does. However, I feel less loved because she is not concerned about pleasing me – and I am not referring to a physical sexual act; I am referring to her not wanting to provide me with the experience of the overall act of sexual relations with her.

As I mentioned, I struggle significantly with this issue from a moral perspective. Christ gave of Himself entirely for others; for me. I feel I should be able to put my feelings and desires aside, but I really labor over this issue and feel very sad and depressed about it. Is this a cross I should strive to carry, by giving of myself entirely and putting my own desire to be whole with my wife aside? I have failed a few times this past year resorting to masturbation and although I have confessed those failures, I have feel unworthy to even pray after those failures.

I find myself resenting my wife’s lack of concern for my need for completeness with her and even experience some resentment toward her because I feel she lacks concern for my moral struggle. I try to fight those feelings of resentment by praying and keeping my mind occupied with other things, but it sometimes seems as though I am merely suppressing those feelings and the resentment exists within me, driving me to sinful self-centeredness. I do realize this is my own struggle and my wife is not the cause of my failures. But I want to fully understand and experience the union of marriage; and even more important, I want that union to be a way to Christ.

Can you offer any advice?

Thanks in advance

Fr. Harold answers:

I am sure your situation is not unique. Through the centuries couples have found themselves in similar circumstances. What a gift and example to be parents of several children!

The tone of your letter says that you and your family are practicing Catholics. The source of our Christian life is found in the Eucharist. Everything leads to Eucharist and everything flows from Eucharist. With that, striving to be of one heart and one mind in Jesus is a fruit of discipleship.

You need to be one with the Lord in all things in your life. There are many things in family life that thrive on unity of life and spirit. As a couple more and more works at fulfilling the two Great Commandments [love God with all your mind, heart, soul, strength; love one another as Jesus loves us], then the bond of unity gets stronger throughout our life. Coming from that standpoint a couple realizes that their mutual giving in physical intercourse is truly a gift from our Creator. From that point of view, the physical expression of love and care for each other is truly a prayerful act giving praise and glory to God. Catholics, of all people, are the ones who enjoy pleasurable sensations more completely than others who don't have our underlying philosophy and faith.

Failures of human weakness are precisely that - weakness. As such they are not a direct confrontation against God our Creator. One puts these failures into the merciful care of God our Father and starts over again. And again. And again. And so on. They keep us aware of our littleness before the Father to whom "childlike" we turn in our needs. This is discipleship.

Blessings and peace!

Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB


On July 19, 2011 we received this question:

Dear Fathers,

My boyfriend is in a rather awkward situation. He injured his back while serving in the military and the nerve damage has caused a few problems. One of which is that his body no longer regulates sperm emission. He no longer has nightly emissions. If aroused (even unintentionally) the pressure merely builds and has reached the point where it is incredibly painful and threatens his future sexual health. His doctors have recommended masturbation. In his case would masturbation be a sin? It's something he's talked about with me because he's worried about committing the sin of masturbation (something we've both struggled with) but he also wants to preserve his sexual health so that we can have children if married in the future.

Sarabeth

Fr. Harold Danielson answers:

Dear Sarabeth,

I am certainly no expert on medical/moral human sexuality issues. However, over the extent of human existence, the body absorbs into itself whatever it produces and which is not automatically thrown out. This is the ordinary experience of married spouses where the man has to wait for the wife to be ready for loving intercourse, as an expression of God’s Sacramental presence in their lives. If one self-stmulates, it can very easily become addictive/compulsive, which is self serving not mutual love, and is not relieved when there actually is spousal love-making available.

You say pressure builds up. The brain is what regulates these things. And if the brain dwells on it, the more it will build up. A homeopathic doctor I know, explained once the various energies that human beings have. I do not remember at all what they were, but I remember him saying that one of the “remedies” [homeopathic term] relieves the sexual energy in a person. Check that out.

Now, acknowledging human weakness in all of us human beings. Don’t be surprised or upset at yourselves in the face of failure. Just give it into the loving care of God our Father, and start over again. The Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist are most important in our Christian lives. Without these two Sacraments it is not possible to live truly upright lives. And if we have chosen to neglect these Sacraments, then one wonders why seek guidance of any kind.

You have expressed hope for family in the future. Be close to Jesus in His Church. Say, “Yes,” to his invitation, “Come with me.” You will see everything work out for good when you love God first in your life, so that, with the Spirit in you, you will be able to love others the way Jesus loves them with unimagined totality.

Blessings and peace!

Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB


On July 10, we received this question:

Hi,

I have a question, I recently started dating a catholic and I was confirmed lutheran. (WELS) synod). He won't kiss me being that I was previously married and then divorced and he wants an annullment through the catholic church. I am going to do this but I was wondering if kissing should be vanished until it is a valid annullment. or if this just pertains to getting married to him. ?? and we can still kiss with a pure intention..

Thanks

Samantha

Fr. John Malloy answers:

Samantha,

In itself kissing is not prohibited as long as it is kept in proper limits.

I admire your fiancé's efforts to keep your dating on a high level. His intentions are pure. He may realize that kissing could encourage the urge to go further, and he wants to preserve his purity.

He's a great example and hopefully your annulment can be expedited.

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB


On May 24, we received these questions:

Dear Fathers,

I need your guidance and opinion in something that is bothering me:

Before my husband met me, he really wanted to marry a virgin. Before we got married, he asked me if I was a virgin, and I told him that I was not a virgin and was engaged to somebody else in the past and had sexual intercourse. He insisted on knowing how many men I've slept with before him, so I lied to him and told him that I only had sexual intercourse with only 1 man which was my previous fiance. I lied to my husband because in fact, there were 5 men. I lied because I was ashamed of myself. I was justifying one of the men because we were planning on getting married. The 4 other men were casual relationships.

I never thought I would lie about something like this, and I've always been truthful and devoted to my husband. Then we got married. We love each other very much and are very happy together. I've never lied to him about anything else.

I lied to him initially because I deeply regretted not being the woman he wanted and I wanted to forget about my mistakes. I went to church and confessed for god's forgiveness. I was ashamed of myself specially because one of the man in my past was a one night stand. I was shocked on how important this is and was to my husband and didn't want him to leave me.

My husband questioned me many times about the same subject (how many men) and I lied repeatedly to him both before and after we got married. Now I feel bad, and don't want our marriage to be based on a lie. I fear that he will leave me if I tell him the truth now. Should I tell him everything at this point (before we have kids), or just forget about it?

Karen

Fr. John Malloy responds:

Karen,

My first thought is: Was he a virgin when he married you? You could return the question.

But it would probably be better to just brush him off and tell him you are sorry he has to keep asking you.

You have confessed to God (was it in confession?) So you are forgiven by God, and this is the important issue. Sins should be confessed to a confessor and no one else has a right to know the past.

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB


On April 15, we received this question:

Dear Fathers,

I am a Catholic living in Kansas and I have a serious question to ask. When you are married and you don't want kids just yet, is it all right to have sex and pull out or is that a mortal sin? I converted to the Catholic faith two to three years ago and I can honestly say it is very different from the other forms of Christianity I was apart of. I feel trapped that anything and everything I do might offend God whether it is a story line for a book that is about zombies or whatever to just watching a Rated R movie. I know I am human and I have my fallacies and I sincerely try to not to sin but temptation is always staring at me like a cow does a train coming at it. I mean I knwo times have changed since the Bible was written and the times now are not the same as the time of Jesus walking the Earth passing the knowledge of Our Holy God and Father. I don't want to sound like I am against the Church but as I am seeing it seems that people in power tend to push their views and interpretations of the Bible but where is the true interpretations? I want to live in holiness of God but I know I am not perfect and I can't be God but supposedly I can be like God which I don't understand that saying. So can you help me with my questions? Can you give me the best advice that you can?

Sincerely,

A Texan in Kansas

Fr. John Malloy answers:

Michael,

"Let your conscience be your guide." It's a true mantra, but dangerous at the same time. It's easy for us to dismiss our sins by claming it's ok with my conscience.

Your conscience has to be in sync with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Those teachings have not changed and are based on the authentic teachings of the Catholic Church-- ten commandments and the Bible included.

Withdrawal is sinful, but natural family planning might be an answer to your problem. You can receive help in resolving this problem by speaking to the local priest.

When you have doubts about some teaching of the Church, remember that the one who speaks with infallble authority is the Holy Father, Vicar of Christ . Unfortunately, we have too many "teachers' who espouse erronious teachings.

Find a priest you trust and let him guide you,

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB


On March 29, we received this question:

Father,

My husband and I have been married now for just over five years and have three beautiful children together. The trouble we are having deals with NFP versus sterilization. You see, all three of our pregnancies have resulted in C-sections due to medical complications beyond our control. Each new pregnancy after the first pregnancy has brought on its own complications some so severe that I was unable to walk for the last trimester of my last pregnancy. All of the complications we have been through have left devastating issues in our family and married life even though the children and I are physically healthy and well. In the midst of our last pregnancy we were so overwhelmed with all of the complications the pregnancy brought on that I asked him if he would consider getting a vasectomy after our third baby reached a certain age and we were certain we did not want to go through this again. He agreed to entertain the idea and I in turn agreed not to have a tubal litigation during my last C-section surgery. Well, here we are a year after our third baby was born and I bring up the idea of the vasectomy because I am going to be weaning the baby and thus our NFP will soon expire and I will be left to rely on another NFP method. The thing is is that I am terrified to be pregnant again, to feel the pain and complications the pregnancies bring me and to have to go under the knife again. My husband has decided that he is holding true to the Roman Catholic belief in only using NFP to avoid pregnancy, and is refusing to get a vasectomy. He says he would rather abstain from sex our entire marriage. I tried to tell him sex is very important in a healthy marriage, but he is still putting his foot down. I know we can't avoid having sex forever, and I also know the NFP failed us twice because my body is never regular. I don't know what to do...and I am looking for guidance on this issue. Would God damn my husband or I to Hell because we have a medical necessity in which continuing to get pregnant is not smart for our family and we chose to have one of us get sterilized? I am afraid I will be the one undergoing the procedure to preserve my family. I don't want the risk of maternal or fetal death because of what will be a fifth abdominal surgery over the past five years...and I don't want another debilitating pregnancy. I have prayed and prayed over this issue with no resolve. I look forward to any insight and suggestions that you can provide.

Thank you, Elisha

Fr. John Malloy answers:

Dear Elisha,

God bless you for your grave concern over this matter. Your concern in of itself is a great blessing as so many married Catholics disregard the care of their soul and their spouse’s soul in the realm of married life.

The short answer to your question - Would it be intrinsically evil for either you or your husband to be artificially sterilized? – is yes. I’ve included two articles from the Catechism of the Catholic Church that address this issue. They are:

2399 The regulation of births represents one of the aspects of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception).

2370 Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality.158 These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, "every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" is intrinsically evil:159

Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality. . . . The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.160

Perhaps your unasked question is: why would God give you the gift of fertility coupled with such painful consequences if He wanted you and your husband to continue to be open to life? Or, more generally, why a loving and good God allows any human suffering? The mystery of human suffering is indeed a mystery but we do know that each of us is called to carry our cross and follow Him. It would seem God is calling you and your husband into deeper union with Him through this great suffering.

On a spiritual level, I would recommend uniting your suffering with the cross and surrendering your fertility to God’s care. Suffering for its own sake is useless but suffering united with Christ is redemptive and may be the saving grace for you, your husband and your children.

On a medical level, I would recommend contacting the Pope Paul VI Institute - http://www.popepaulvi.com - for up to date instructions on natural family planning options.

Finally, please know you are not alone. There are many couples who, like you, fear pregnancy because of health issues for the mother and/or to the child, as in the case of genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis. I believe you will find both consolation and wisdom in their stories. I don’t have a reference for you at this time, but I will research the matter and send you links in the next few days.

The burden of your situation is heavy but the Church in her wisdom carries the burden of preventing grave harm to your soul through her teaching on married love. Pope John Paul II gave us a great gift is his seminal work Theology of the Body. Christopher West offers many insights into this work. They can be found at http://www.christopherwest.com.

Please know I am praying for you and your husband. I welcome any further questions or thoughts you have on this or any topics.

May God bless you and keep you in His tender care,

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB


On March 24, 2011 we received this question:

Dear Fathers

I know that it is a sin for a husband to climax outside of his wife, but it is okay for a wife to climax outside of intercourse (during foreplay or right after intercourse). Is it a sin for a wife to cause herself to climax right after intercourse while her husband has left the room for a short while afterward to get a drink of water or go to the bathroom?

J.M.

Fr. John Malloy answers:

J.M.,

As long as the climax is connected to legitimate intercourse, immediately before or immediately after, I do not see it as sinful.

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB


On April 15, 2010 we received this question:

Dear Father,

I have recently been clothed in the brown scapular. But i took it off when i knew i was about to commit a sin, which i knew was wrong. I think that if I had listened to my concience and said my prayers to Mary everyday, i would have managed to resist my temptations and i would have kept it on. I do want to confess my sins, but it will be about 2 weeks until I can get a ride to go. Can I still wear the scapular during these two weeks? Will it still work, even if i am in sin right now? even if i have given into a temptation? Will it still protect me or will it not work again until after my confession? I just need help to know on what conditions it will work, for i have sinned when knowing it was wrong.

thankyou for your time Father

Fr. John Malloy responds:

Snoop,

Keep your scapular on no matter what!

Wanting to confess is itself a positive sign of God's grace and your willingness to admit your sin.

The scapular always works even when I'm in sin but repentance follows.

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB


On February 8, we received this question:

Dear Fathers,

I have been dating a wonderful Catholic man for a number of years, and we have been in the process of discussing our future plans and preparing our hearts for marriage. I am a Protestant, but a few years ago we attended a Catholic bible study that opened our eyes to the beauty of the Theology of the Body and all that in entails (purity, NFP, etc). Since then, the concept of sexual purity has become even more important in our lives and a view point we try to share with others. We have been able to talk about many issues and grow together in our understanding of how to remain pure.

The problem is, when I was in my teens I struggled a lot with masturbation. For a while I did not realize it was wrong (indeed, I didn't even realize women could masturbate/that the actions I did were masturbation) but even when I did become convicted I struggled to stop. After a few years, and with the grace of God, I was able to break my habits and have remained pure in action ever since.

Is this struggle something I should share with my boyfriend? Or would it be too hurtful and detrimental to our relationship? I have a feeling that he would understand and forgive everything, but I hesitate because 1) I wonder if it would perhaps be more information than he wants to know 2) it might make him lose respect for me (I sometimes feel like a hypocrite when he compliments me on the pure attitude we have developed since reading Theology of the Body...if only he knew the sinful habit I maintained before fully embracing purity) and 3) it would seem so unexpected since I am a female who struggled with this typically "male issue." Because we are looking into marriage, is it something that would benefit our relationship in the long run if he knew? I want to maintain and strong and healthy relationship...whether that means sharing this with him or not sharing...but I need insight as to what would be most helpful.

Sincerely,

Confused Girlfriend

Fr. John Malloy responds:

Confused,

Not to worry! You share a problem that has been of major concern for many who want to draw closer to God.

You have handled it beautifully and have been graced by God with your acceptance and practice of Theology of Body docrine.

Your boyfriend has no need to know of your habit. It would not help him or you. Build on the present. You deserve his respect for your "pure attitude." Let the past be past.

Even though you are not Catholic you could go to confession. and receive the blessing of the priest and be assured of God's forgiveness. Meanwhile, no matter what-- let sleeping dogs sleep!

Be assured that God forgives you, as evidenced by your acceptance of Theology of the Body, which itself is a grace of God.

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB


On January 28, we received this question:

 

Dear Fathers,

I would appreciate your thoughts on the situation in my marriage.

Before my wife and I got married as part of our preparation we discussed sex and what was acceptable. This was in conjunction a with a book by Fr Tony Baggot sj, which set out the limits of foreplay etc. As a result, my wife to be said she would do anything I wanted after we were married.

After the wedding she refused to give me oral stimulation but was always happy to receive. I tried to get to tell me why but she wouldn't discuss it. After a long time and many broken promises, she told me she didn't have a reason not to, she just wouldn't do it. You can imagine what effect that has had on our marriage. Now she won't do anything at all except passively cooperate infrequently.

Her behavior seems dishonest and selfish to me. She says she doesn't have to do anything she doesn't want to and that I should be satisfied with what she is willing to do.

Am I being unreasonable by asking my wife to please me in the same way I have always tried my best to please her? Should a spouse always fulfill the wishes of their partner, as long as the requests are not immoral or excessive?

Thanks

Henry

Fr. John Malloy answers:

Henry,

I suggest you and your wife review what is acceptable as foreplay before intimate sexual relations. Sexual differences between male and female should be discussed and acceptable.

A good marriage counselor would help. Foreplay may be acceptable, but it must always be acceptable by both parties. What may be pleasing to the man may be unpleasant to the woman, such as oral foreplay or sodomy etc. and such actions could be sinful. Sexual foreplay should result in intercourse that is acceptable.

I realize that it takes two to tango, but the partners must learn to follow leads or stumble in the process.

Also: prayer can be a big help. "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of."

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB


On June 30, we received this question:

Fathers:

In response to a statement that "Nowhere in the King James Bible does it say that birth control is wrong. The 'Holy See' was the original source of this ridculous idea that birth control of any kind is against God, and thus the 'Holy See' is basically responsible for all the muders of doctors who ignore common sense and common civility in order to promote any dogma proposed by their church.", I quoted Genesis 38:9-10 and then said "The clear intent of Onan was contraception and God killed him for it. No Christian church accepted contraception until the Lambeth Conference of 1930." A third person replied "...stating that the 'Holy See" is basically responsible for all the murders of doctors by those who ignore common sense and common civility in order to promote any dogma proposed by their churh" is a ridiculous statement akin to the belief that God literally killed someone for using contraception."

My question, Fathers, is do I misinterpret Scripture when I conclude that God literally killed Onan for "spilling his seed" in order to not impregnate his brother's wife?

Sincerely,

I.M.

Fr. John Malloy answers:

IM,

No, I don't think you misinterpret Scripture when you conclude that God literally killed Onan for "spilling his seed" in order to not impregnate his brother's wife?

Several early writers focused on the spilling seed, and the sexual act being used for non-recreational purposes; one opinion expressed in the Talmud argues that this was where the death penalty's imposition originated. This interpretation was held by several early Christian apologist, Jerome, for example, arguing:

“But I wonder why he the heretic Jovinianus set Judah and Tamar before us for an example, unless perchance even harlots give him pleasure; or Onan, who was slain because he grudged his brother seed. Does he imagine that we approve of any sexual intercourse except for the procreation of children?

The 'Holy See' is certainly not responsible for murder of doctors.who promote a dogma proposed by their Church." Birth control is not a dogma, it is an accepted moral teaching based on the commandments. It was not invented by popes and is rooted in moral law. Because of this the Church does not approve of any sexual intercourse except for procreation.

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB


On June 20, we received these questions:

Fathers-

I was raised in a devout Catholic home in a community that was split between Mormons and born-again Christians. Had I grown up there without the inclusive Catholic example of my parents, I think I would have come to resent religion. Instead, I did have their example of true Christianity, not just cheap evangelism, and as an adult I admire anyone who has any faith; I respect all desires to do God's will on earth.

However, my affection and respect for religion does not always equal faith. I believe in God, I’m sure of it because I spent enough time doubting. I believe in Christ because I feel his absence when I fail to take the Eucharist. I believe in the Holy Spirit, perhaps most of all, because I have felt it move me; it has pulled me out of my darkest moments. But I do not find it so easy to believe in all of the Church’s teachings and I’m afraid that this is either pride masquerading as logic or, worse, that I may have drifted too far from the Church.

Let me first revisit my last confession - which wasn't really a confession at all. I am guilty of having premarital sex, for which I do not feel remorse. This resulted in a pregnancy and, through very complicated circumstances, I had an abortion. I felt a great deal of sadness and grief; it broke my heart and I wanted that baby (This is one of the more obvious times in my life the Holy Spirit guided me through difficulties). But I am not sorry for the decision I made.

Make no mistake, I want to be forgiven!!! I’d love to be absolved, but I don’t think God can forgive me for something that I’m not sorry for in my heart.

Having a child with that man would have been terrible for both me and that child and, as awful as this outcome is, I do believe it was the right thing to do. Not the easy thing to do, but the necessary thing. I wish I were sorry, I think I would be a better person. But I’m not.

I didn’t accept the Eucharist for a year. When I finally went to confession I told the priest that I wasn’t sorry but that I wanted to be forgiven. He replied that I would be sorry one day and when I am, God would welcome me back. He told me that I could accept the Eucharist, which I did (I was grateful). But it’s been several years, I have still not been properly absolved and I’m not sure that I can go on accepting the Eucharist.

Let me simplify: If I tell a lie I feel terrible. I have never stolen anything, not even a stapler from work. I feel the need to serve people around me and my job allows me to help the less fortunate. All of this implies that I have a conscience. But premarital sex doesn’t feel wrong, it feels like biology. And although having an abortion ripped me apart, I have no doubt that if you knew the man who got me pregnant… you might not agree with my decision, but you would certainly sympathize.I know that it is only due to my trust in God that I was ever able to get through that time in my life. Surly, if He guided me, if He knows what’s in my heart… then can He forgive me for the sins I’m not sorry for?

I didn’t mean to be so longwinded. The keyboard ran away with itself.

Thank you for your help and compassion on this subject.

-m

Fr. John Malloy answers:

Megan,

I do sympathize with you and recognize the problems that tear your heart apart.

However, one problem would have been lessened if you had brought the baby to term and let it be adopted.

With the Sacrament of Reconciliation for Catholics, any sin can be forgiven, if there is true sorrow for the sin committed.

With your love of God and faith in the Trinity, you have a firm anchor to the Church. But you need a second anchor to be a true Catholic: The Bible and Tradition are two wings with which we Catholics fly. Unfortunately you lack the second wing (or anchor): Tradition.

Tradition requires that Catholics believe and accept the teachings of the Church as expressed by the Pope and Bishops with him.

One of our clear teachings is the sacredness of sex and its necessity to continue the human race. However, for the good of humankind there are limits to the use of this procreative power. Admittedly the urge is strong, so the need of self control must also be strong.

You do many things that should make your faith strong; good works, prayer, etc. But you are not ready to give up the use of sex because it feels good. God asks us to make a sacrifice and you not ready to make it because of your own self interest.

To truly love God you must observe his Commandments. Accept His way in your life and you will find forgiveness.

Then you will be able to receive the Lord and live in the peace for which you yearn

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB


On March 15, we received these questions:

Dear Fathers:

I am engaged and the date set for the wedding is May 2, 2009. My fiancé and I have been practicing abstinence in preparation for the wedding…but we have not been perfect. I also stopped taking birth control for the last 9 months, preparing for marriage in the Catholic Church. I recently found out that I am pregnant, about 5 weeks, with 7 weeks left to the wedding.

Can I tell my parents and priest or would this put our ceremony on hold or make it so that we would have to wait to get married? We already have everything in place and would not be able to get refunds on a lot of items purchased already….not to mention the honeymoon reservations.

I appreciate you help,

Robin

Fr. John Malloy answers:

Robin,

No reason to postpone the wedding. But do make a good confession.

And study the Natiural Family Planning method. Seek advice of a competent counsellor.

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB


On March 14, we received these questions:

Fathers:

I recently converted to the catholic faith from the Protestant faith. My eleven year old son is in the process of converting as well. My husband and 16 year old daughter attend Mass with us every week and enjoy it, but they refuse to convert. My daughter has just come to me saying that she is having sex with her boyfriend. I had a long discussion with her about abstinance and my new beliefs on birth control. She would like me to take her to the doctor to discuss birth control methods. Do I take her to the doctor? Do I let her do this on her own? What are my responsiblities as a parent in this situation?

Kimberly

Fr. John Malloy answers:

Kimberly,

Not knowing the area in which you live, I have no specific counselor to recommend. But here is a valuable tool of sound infomation and correct Catholic teaching, based on the work of Popoe John Paul II:

Theology of His Body / Theology of Her Body
(2 Books, 1 Volume)
by Jason Evert
(Ascension Press - Barnes & Noble):

Theology of Her Body and Theology of His Body will feed your teens with liberating answers to their most pressing questions about love and sexuality. These books offer solid, relevant teachings in a language teens understand. But more than just presenting the truth itself, they deliver the tools teens need to achieve the greatness for which they were created.

A link to the book is here.

Fr. John Malloy, SDB


On March 12, 2009, we received this question:

Here is the question in a nutshell: Is it morally wrong to stay married to a person for whom one has little sexual attraction/connection?

I have been struggling with a moral dilemma for quite some time. About five years ago I met a man online. I was 36 and he was 44 years old. We spent about 6 months courting and then got engaged. We lived an hour from one another and saw each other on weekends for that time and then I moved to his city while we were engaged for five months. He seemed like what I always wanted in a husband and for him the feeling was mutual.

However, we come from very different backgrounds and the courting, as a result, was somewhat tumultuous at times. In spite of that, neither of us had doubts about marrying one another and we even thought the fact that we still felt comfortable marrying each other was a testament to the strength of our relationship.

Though I was sexually attracted to him in the beginning of our relationship (no different than I had been with anyone else previously) the night we were married, sexually for me, and even some on the honeymoon felt somewhat flat----anticlimactic. I felt like I should be more excited or something. I chalked it up to being exhausted and having so many new adjustments (moving, new job, new family, new faith ---I converted to Catholicism etc.)

Then, over three years our relationship was very conflicted and progressively spiraled to such an unhealthy level that we are now separated and have been living apart for a year and a half. We do not have children. One of the recurring issues has been my lack of sexual passion and interest. By definition I have had a sexual dysfunction in the area of libido. This was troubling because though I was never married before I also never had a problem with lack of sexual passion or interest. Ironically, during my marriage I began to take testosterone, read books on the issue and we even went to a sex therapist (along with two priests, three counselors, just about all of our family and friends, countless marriage/self help books and a partridge in a pear tree).

Because of this I have begun to be a bit gun shy to counsel. Our first two counselors said we were incompatible. One priest subtly offered the possibility that this union may not be God’s will. The sex therapist believed the problem was my husband and his judgment of me and my past put him in a position of power, and the last counselor finally pleaded, “What is it going to take for you two to end this (conflict and/or relationship)?” Our friends and families have understandably had a hard time seeing us go through such a difficult time and all of this, I believe, has not so much to do with the problems but with our seeming lack of ability to resolve the conflict.

I can’t help believe that if I had more of a sexual passion toward my husband it would make a difference. A sexual bond fosters those warm, fuzzy bonding feelings that can get you through the rough spots and “cover a multitude of sins.” So often I have felt like God is punishing me/us. I feel He is messing with me and ironically now that I have found “the one” and we are married and it is acceptable for us to have sex I can’t seem to muster the desire. I do sometimes wonder if this is punishment for past sins, and since it seemed that we didn’t get much hope from counsel I almost feel guilty for having any hope and wanting to be committed to the relationship.

Regardless, I do love my husband and want to the marriage to work, but it feels most often like a somewhat different kind of love than I had with past boyfriends. My attraction and feeling of falling love began as it did with other men I have been in love with and comparatively my husband had more of the qualities I wanted. But during the turbulence of our early courting and /or marriage I think I began to not feel safe or something. I do know he had a big problem with my past and my family which brought up issues of shame for me. I also had trouble feeling really connected with his view of standards and thus connecting with him and his family---to summarize the main problems.

Since the separation, our relationship didn’t seem to improve much until recently. It seems we have healed and grown enough that we are ready to have some hope again. If it helps, he is madly in love with me.----like in the movies---- but the apparent disparity of our feelings for one another makes me uncomfortable. As you know sexual passion is the glue that makes you stick through tough times, separates a married relationship from other relationships and creates a bonding feeling of adoration and appreciation. When I measure my own feelings using that barometer I know that I do adore him and appreciate him but many times it seems not in a “husbandly” way----like there is a distinct “block” to the full expression of intimacy and surrender----I don’t know how else to explain it. That is where I feel I am potentially doing him a disservice---my passion for him comes and goes and more often than not I don’t have a strong connection to him. I do “feel it” for him but not strongly and not like it is supposed to be ideally and not like he “feels it” for me. I get a sense of guilt that I am not giving him all that a marriage could be. Perhaps he and I just have different levels of intimacy we are comfortable with, or I am don’t have realistic view of expectations and am relying too much on feelings etc.----I don’t know anymore.

Regardless, we are both willing be hopeful enough to give an earnest effort at our marriage. I would have never left him (he insisted) and feel I would have be content to live out my life with him, but I still have those nagging mixed feelings and general lack of passion.

For now I don’t spend time with his family or friends and nor does he with mine until we/me are more sure about the direction of our relationship. Soon I will need to begin to accept his family’s invitation to visit etc. However, I don’t want to involve them again until I am more sure of my own feelings and what is right.

So, let’s say that there is no other explanation to my lack of libido other than I am not chemically attracted to him. Hypothetically, if that is the case, is it morally wrong to stay married to him? Is it morally wrong to stay in the relationship if I am not sexually attracted to my husband to the point that I may never be fully “in love” with him? I don’t know if I should hold out hope that God would restore/create those feelings if I am true to the commitment of marriage or if this is a sign that I married the wrong man and made an unlucky choice and the most loving thing I can do is leave him? Even if I did marry the ” wrong man” would it be a sin for me to stay with him given how I sometimes feel?

We don’t have an ideal union, and so I don’t know if God will choose to work the highest good for us and those around us through this marriage due to the ratio of how much we have tried and results we have gotten from those efforts. I want to believe God would give us/me the grace to have the essentials of marriage and at least for my husband’s sake give me the feelings and sexual drive that I should have----maybe over time. However, due to the amount of time we have been struggling with this I am questioning whether or not this union IS God’s will. It is MY will that our relationship is restored and becomes what it should and could be and from everything I know about God’s word and church teaching it is God’s will that we stay married. But then, why do I continue to have a lack of peace? Would God call me AWAY from my spouse? That seems to go against His will.

I believe God can do anything He wants including giving me the right desires. So, if He is not giving me the right desires regardless of how much I want them or what I do, then is this a sign that this must not be His will? Maybe there is another perspective I am not considering. I want to do the right and loving thing and for the right reasons. I don’t want to give up if there is a way around this and the highest good will be achieved by staying together, but I don’t want to drag this out wasting our time if the best thing to do is let him go. I try to listen to that still, small voice of God but regardless I continue to hear mixed messages. I hope you can help.

Thank you so much for your time………..

Deby

Fr. Harold Danielson responds:

Dear Deby,

The wedding promises say "in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health." It seems to me that precisely these phrases from the marriage covenant are what must guide you in your particular circumstance.

So … some reflections upon your letter. Certainly physical attraction and mutual sexual activity and satisfaction are part of the marriage equation. However, this aspect of married life is by no means the most important and is very much overrated. Unity of mind and heart, responding together to your call from God as a couple united by the Spirit to show His love in the world … this is much more profound. Read the paragraphs on marriage and family life portrayed in the document "The Church in the Modern World" of the Second Vatican Council. [If you do not have a book, it is accessible on the world wide web at the Vatican website.]

In your letter you express a view of sexual encounter that is very ethereal, not down to earth at all. You have been sold a bill of goods by the media industry portraying all human intercourse only in the physical expression as the only good about coming together. Such a romantic, emotional, limited fantasy is in fact just that - imagination. What is written or shown in film, images on the internet, experience on the street or in places of business is just a way of sucking life out of individuals so that they do not pay attention to their jobs or their families or their relationships and have their minds totally occupied about their own bodies and the naked bodies of others. They are missing out on the concrete realities of our life journey on this planet earth on our way to God.

When our spiritual life includes Sunday Eucharist and Communion, Sacramental Reconciliation a few times in the year, participating in some spiritual group in the Church, opening our pocketbooks with generosity, self-discipline, personal prayer, prayer together with the spouse, community prayer, volunteering, plus so many other things, then our life begins to be in order.

When one enters sexual expression of love and care for the spouse, then no matter how it "feels" it is still good. Perhaps a man's need is fulfilled in one way, the woman's in another. Perhaps it is a chore. If one partner actually enjoys it, give thanks to God. If neither enjoys it, then there is no compelling reason to engage in it, except for the specific purpose of begetting children. I think that advice of old of a mother explaining to her daughter before getting married to "do your duty" for your husband in this area captured the element that it is not going to be Fourth of July fireworks most of the time.

Now to complete a reflection on this, so far there are no children involved. My first statement is: if you are really open to children, then you must engage in the act of mutual intercourse even as a chore. A further thought is this: perhaps you have been using some conception prevention method. One's body gets used to that condition and sends messages to the mind not to have any enjoyment. And emotional longing does not automatically return when one gets off the contraceptive helps. Even in one's 40's!

Blessings and peace!

Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB


On November 26, 2008, we received this question:

Good evening Father.

I have been dating a man for many years. It is not intimate. I am a divorced Catholic and he is a never-married Catholic. We are both in our early fifties.

Is it a sin for him to date me; a divorced woman? Is passonate kissing, which in our case will not lead to anything else, a sin?

God bless you and thank you for any light you can shine on this matter.

Sue

Fr. Harold responds:

Dear Sue,

Since you have been dating him for years, I would presume that you know him quite well by now. And that kissing is a pleasurable activity.

I would think that you might present your original marriage to your Diocesan Tribunal in order to determine if that marriage had been valid in the first place. If the evidence shows that it was not, what would prevent you from entering into marriage - even in your 50's? Without that possibility, you have been denying your friend the opportunity of maybe getting married himself. This is what would be a moral failure on your part.

You would need to be very upfront with him about these possibilities in order for your relationship to turn into one of authentic growth in discipleship. Otherwise the opposite might be true!

Blessings and peace!

Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB


On October 28, we received these questions:

Dear Father,

My husband and I have been married for almost 10 years. We have 3 wonderful children and have used NFP faithfully for our entire marriage. I had a history of endometriosis prior to marriage but was still able to conceive w/o difficulty. Praise the Lord!

However, I am now experiencing a decent amount of pain and cramping throughout the month due to the endometriosis coming back and my dr's suggestion is to put me on oral contraceptives to control the pain and the endometriosis, with the thought that we could retain fertility a bit long and have another child in a year or two.

What is the Catholic church's stand on oral contraceptives for medical uses? I don't want to do anything against the church and if we need to not take them, that's what we need to do. But if it will help, and we can so that we can have more kids later, that would be wonderful.

thanks so much.

Jennifer

Fr. Harold Danielson answers:

Dear Jennifer,

What a wonderful witness to Jesus! Your physical body's notable pain is a continual invitation to walk with Jesus to Calvary. This is one of the symptoms of the so-called "Baptism of suffering" described by spiritual writers. It is the invitation of Jesus to the brothers James and John: "Are you ready to be baptized in the way I am to be baptized?" They answered, "Yes!" How do we disciples answer Jesus?

At the same time we are called to take care of our physical bodies as sacred "temples of the Holy Spirit." Thus when something is physically out of order we are expected to do what we can about it. Jesus went about healing the sick. His disciples have been doing the same ever since.

So since this is the first time I saw a condition spelled out, I immediately looked it up on the internet. [What convenience we have nowadays that was unheard of not so many years ago!] So I shall give you a few thoughts.

First to approach the situation as you have presented it; then a further comment.

My first thought was what we learned in class long ago: the principle of double effect. This would be situation where a good thing is intended, but something else takes place as a secondary effect. For example, in your case, cure or treatment for a condition which treatment as a side effect prevents pregnancy. If it were simply this, it would be an easy solution. However, an examination of a particular medication is called for. Some contraceptive medications certainly prevent births, but do not actually prevent conception. In other words, through a variety of means, they do things to the body to cause very early miscarriage of an embryo [fertilized egg] not preventing conception at all. When they actually prevent ovulation so that there is no fertilization, that is something quite different. In this last case the "double effect" principle could apply.

Here is a place where I might remind you where the morality, or not, of "artificial" [as opposed to "natural"] contraception lies. In a healthy physiognomy of the human body the only fool-proof method is abstinence. When spouses freely choose this, it is virtue on the road to sanctity. This has shone forth in the lives of some famous people [some Saints] in the history of the Church. However, one of the purposes of marriage is the self-giving in life and love also expressed with physical consummation - when the Sacrament of Matrimony truly kicks in.

Modern science now shows us that a completely new individual begins at the moment when a sperm enters an egg. At fertilization a completely new DNA appears; a completely new human being, helpless and undeveloped yes, but a brand new individual!

Faith has understood this for millennia already. We believe that Mary, viewed by God as the future mother of His Son, was free from sin from the first moment of conception. We know this as the Immaculate Conception. We even have a solemn feast day to remember this extraordinary reality. We count as the first moment of the existence of Jesus in the womb of Mary when she said OK to the message of the Angel. We also remember this as a feast, the Annunciation, and celebrate the birth of Jesus exactly nine months later.

With these two facts in place, science and faith meeting together, it is easy to see where the specific moral objections to contraception are. When we artificially actually prevent ovulation in order to prevent fertilization and thus the rise of a new human being, then we are merely [!] "frustrating" the possible desire of the Creator for a new person who could give glory and praise to Him. If instead the artificial means [pills, patches, injections, IUD's, etc] are actually ways to destroy something that has already happened [i.e., fertilization], then we have made a direct action to get rid of a person God has already called into being.

These last things are what you have expressed that you are seeking to avoid in your Christian life.

In respect to healing or at least reducing symptoms of the distressful situation your own body is causing, there are a variety of ways to approach it. Various websites propose laparoscopic surgery or alternative therapies. Your doctor is recommending pills to avoid surgery, I suppose. But you can experiment with some of the alternatives. They are not liable to hurt you. Some may even help.

You can find out what is available in the area where you live. For a while, I myself was being treated by a homeopathic doctor. I found his advice and vision, as he discussed the context of my own physical body, most extraordinary and practical. I do not know if, in his practice, he has treated anyone in your condition. But in interviewing a homeopathic doctor or an expert in Chinese medicine, you can ask them about it and see what advice they might give and if you want to try it out.

One last thing, which I think from the context of your letter you are doing already, is this. It is a great paradox in our modern, complex society that we expect extraordinary self-discipline from our Olympic athletes, our marathon runners, our "Iron Man" triathletes, etc., and we think that the absolutely only thing we have no control over and we do not expect any self-discipline about is our sexual appetite. In your practice of Natural Family Planning, you have found this extra self-discipline to intensify your loving care for one another in your marital relationship. Authentic Christians are certainly called to be "Light in the World" in this way too.

Blessings and peace!

Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB


On August 28, we received these questions:

Dear Fathers,

I have been married for forty yers. we have 7 children,all grown. I have been obsesed with the idea of my wife performing oral sex on me to the point of ejaculation. She will not do this because she was molested by her brother when she was young. She will not discuss the details of this with me other than to say he tried to force her to perform oral sex on him.Our sex life has suffered because of our age, she is not interested in sex as much and I am not able to perform as well. I am trying to invite the Holy Spirit into my heart but I am struggling to keep God first and all other activities in a lesser importance. I have looked at pornography on the internet and have masturbated and had impure thoughts. Confession is not readily available at our church because we are a mission and our priest has recently suffered a stroke and we have had "retired priests" filling in for him.

Please pray for me.How do I handle this obssession?

An older husband

Fr. Harold Danielson responds:

Dear Older Husband,

Since I am certainly no expert regarding sexual expression in marriage, I turned to my computer and the internet in order to give a couple of references that seemed to make sense to me. Regarding morality [i.e. ascertaining right from wrong] I subscribe to the philosophy of St. Alphonsus Liguori who approached it from a singular appreciation of the human condition and guided by good, common sense in all things. I think Pope John Paul II subscribed to St. Alphonsus also, as attested in his Theology of the Body collection of Wednesday audience teachings.

This last is the basis for Professor Jason Palermo's article on your question at the website of Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans [www.nds.edu]. I am grateful for his article which gives a wonderful overview of this whole thing.

Another website I think pretty well-written and well-balanced is www.beginningcatholic.com under Christian morality. There are other articles and websites which will give various takes on the subject, all in keeping with Catholic teaching.

In Christian Catholic morality, as also in doctrine, we must keep in mind that various Saints and Church Fathers have explored our faith searching for understanding [the famous definition in Latin fides quaerens intellectum] from various points of view and experience, all Catholic. The early Fathers Augustine and Jerome in Latin; Basil and John Chrysostom in Greek; Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, Duns Scotus in the Middle Ages - they all differed from one another in multiple ways. Thus even today different writers, rooted in a variety of antecedents, may have different ways of experiencing and looking at things within the authentic teaching of the Church [called/chosen disciples of Jesus Christ].

Finally, let me add a pastoral comment. One of the saddest things I heard in confession many years ago was an elderly man ["older husband"] who told me, "My wife doesn't let me touch her any more." So he was saying some of the things you mentioned in your letter. Thus it is very important to touch each other, to please and love the other spouse. The climactic end may not [even should not] be the end result each time except in the proper place, but the love of the present moment is what lasts into eternal life.

Blessings and peace!

Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB

P.S. Your parish is a mission from a bigger town, I suppose. Probably you make trips to the bigger town for a variety of reasons fairly frequently, and probably with a list of "to do" things. Occasionally make one of these dropping by to the rectory (by appointment usually) in order to encounter Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

P.P.S. I dislike the commercial words "erectile dysfunction." Hey, it is normal, when older, that the bodily functions become less subject to stimulation. Certainly medication is a help to stimulation, but it is not correcting an illness or something that is wrong.


On July 25, we received this question:

I have a question about family size, my husband and I are active catholics, we go to mass every sunday and Holy day of obligation and raise our two lovely (and very lively..) daughters in the Faith. My husband works full-time and I part-time, also sometimes in the evenings and weekends, unfortunately (but we need all the money for our loan etc).

Now, our second-born is 3, 5 years and I start to think should we actively try to conceive. We use no contraception, and NFP only not too strictly. A new baby wouldn't be a disaster, exept maybe financially... but that doesn't matter so much to us. The best "prevention" for us has obviously been nursing and then, being so tired in the evenigs that we normally just go to sleep. frankly, we don't have sex really often...

I feel sometimes (especially when much work) exhausted, mentally and physically. Both of our girls are very dear to us but sometimes I find myself thinking, that just two of them is quite enough. We both try our best as parents. We spend time with them, much.

But at the moment a thought about it all starting anew (our second didn't sleep much at all during the nights in one year... and I was studying at that time... I was like a zombie sometimes.. it is a scary prospect..) is almost devastating, at times. I do pray, a lot and if God would bless us with a child I would comply, of course, but it would be a sacrifice. My husband says he wants more children but not, if I consider them as a "sacrifice".

So, in order to be good and exemplary in the Lord's service, what should we do? What would be best for me to think? Would you please pray for me, as I pray for you!

Many thanks in advance,

Pilvi

Fr. John Malloy answers:

Pilvi,

It would take a whole book for me to give you a suitable answer to the questions you have raised. So let me apologize in advance, as I attempt to answer some of your queries.

Your experience with your two daughters is your unique privilege. I draw on experience as a Salesian working with boys from third graders to college men, and on my experience as one of eight children in a family that went through the Great Depression.

From my point of view: We were poor, but as children we did not even realize it, because all the kids around us were also poor. There was no TV then. When we got a radio I would sit with my sisters, close to the set as possible, and follow the popular programs of the day. That, and our outdoor games, was our recreation. Movies were too expensive, but we did manage get to some matinees, And we were happy. We had a vegetable and flower garden which I loved to tend. We never went hungry, even when my father was out of work on the Santa Fe Railroad strike.

What I am trying to get across is that necessity is the mother of invention. Too many of our needs today are superfluities. Can we not get along with one TV and not one in every room? One refrigerator ? One less expensive vacation? This housing crises has been fueled by a perceived need (beyond our means) that we must have more room, more furniture, more, more, more.

Visiting a remote village in Mexico, I cringed as traveled over muddy roads and saw what seemed to be to be shacks in which the families lived. But I was delighted see the young boys and girls going back to school after their lunch break skipping happily along in their very clean clothes and smiling faces. They certainly did with a lot less than our kids, but seemed happier than many a family I view in our towns.

I remember what I heard from one mother with a large family: "How can you stand so many kids night and day?" Her answer: "When I had my first baby I was busy all the time. And after several babies I am still busy all the time. And love it!"

Benefits to come: As children grow older they become surrogate parents for the younger ones and help give mom some rest from time to time. Old age comes fast and having a caring family around at that time is worth millions! I pity parents with only one or two children. Their old age will probably not be as joyful as the family with more kids. Practical experience has taught me this.

So you can now skip all the above and go to my direct answer to your question. Having a baby is not a sacrifice, but a blessing. Or is it both? What does God ask of us?

What was God's command to Adam and Eve? Increase and multiply. But He gave us free will to decide how to do just that. Adam and Eve's lives were damaged by their submission to Satan's intrigue. We have suffered from it through original sin. But the Lord has assured us: "My grace is sufficient for you!" He does not give us a cross larger than we can bear. Do His will and you will be happy. Many sacrifices we make are blessings in disguise and come home to nourish and sport us in time of need.

You seem to be well on the road of living a true Catholic life. Take time to "smell the roses." Maybe you can do with a little less so as to have more time to love each other. It's love not work that conquers all. I predict that more children will make your lives happier and that happiness will grow with old age!

Yes, I will pray for you. As I celebrate mass today in a Carmelite Monastery, I will ask these cloistered nuns to pray with me for you and yours.

With many blessings,

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB


On June 27, we received this questions:

Dear Fathers;

How does one respond to the statement that the Catholic Church is "a work in progress'' to support the assertion that eventually the Church will approve of same sex marriage when it becomes demonstratable that "gays" can have committed loving relationships. To support this the person uses 1 Corinthians 7:10-16. to illustrate the point and advises that "for development of Church doctrine look no further than Paul's change to Jesus' teaching on marriage known as the Pauline privilege." I am familiar with the Pauline privilege. My mother and father were both unbaptized. They divorced and she was baptized Catholic and remarried a Catholic. She always said they had the Pauline privilege. I believe it was actually the Petrine privilege because the matter had to be submitted to Rome (in the late forties.) But as regards same sex marriage I believe that Church teaching on that has been settled and I cannot conceive of any circumstance that could possibly change the Church's position since there will be no new revelation since the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Thank you.

Ila

Fr. John Malloy answers:

Ila,

"Committed loving relationships" a marriage does not make!

Marriage, as the Church has always taught, includes openness to procreation. As a matter of fact, if the partners (or one of them) is (1) not open to having children, or (2) obstructs the marriage act, the union is invalid in the first case and sinful in the second. Sexual acts between same-sex persons are always sinful.

You are correct: " But as regards same sex marriage I believe that Church teaching on that has been settled and I cannot conceive of any circumstance that could possibly change the Church's position."

Regarding Pauline and Petrine privilege, your mother was right. Pauline privilege: both parties unbaptized. Petrine privilege: one baptized, the other not.

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB


On April 22, we received this question:

Dear father, i am 13 years old. I have started the sin of masturbating. At first I did not know it was a sin, but then I found out. I tried to stop, but I kept preforming the sin. I am not able to go to confession because my parents would ask me to tell them what sin I did. We have confession at my school(I go to a catholic school), but I was to afraid to tell the preist because I know him well, and we also do not have a confession screen. Will I not be able to go to heaven if I am not able to go to confession? Can I still receive the Eucharist? ( I still have been so far) CAn I still join a religious order of the Catholic church? ( I wanted to be a franciscan friar but i wont think about it until I wipe this terrible sin in my life away). What should I do father ? I want to live my life free of this terrible sin and continue to think about becoming a friar.

sincerely,

Fr. John Itzaina responds:

Dear Sincerely,

I'm Fr. John Itzaina, SDB, the pastor of Saints Peter and Paul. I received your message about the difficulty of masturbation. It's also called "self-abuse." Get over your embarrassment about seeing your pastor or priest. It there's one thing we're good at is keeping secrets. Besides, sexual growth problems aren't only YOUR problem, but a problem of most people! You're not alone, and thinking that you're the only one with the problem is a problem in itself, because you dwell too long on yourself and don't open up yourself to letting others into your life.

The power of confession and reconciliation can only help you to become sexually adjusted. YOU CANNOT DO IT YOURSELF. You need God's help in family and church to sustain you and help you grow spiritually and psychologically.

Fr. John Itzaina, SDB


On March 24 we received this question:

Dear Father,

My husband and I are newlyweds. I would like to start having children within the next few years. My husband wants to wait until a.) he finishes his degree, and b.) we are more financially sound, especially in a market where a working couple can't even afford to buy a home. Although we both know there is never a "perfect" time to have children, I understand where my husband is coming from. We both want to welcome children into a world where we can best provide for them. This includes a situation where I would be able to stay home with the children (we believe very strongly in this), as well as the ability to send our children to private Catholic school (I taught in public schools, and neither of us want to send our children there). As it is, our expenses for rent, my husband's schooling, etc. really add up, and though we'd like to contribute more, we aren't always able to tuck much into savings.

Here is the dilemna. My husband and I cannot come to an agreement on birth control methods for the planning of our family. As I've mentioned, he says it is better to try to have children a few years down the road, since we are not financially in a place to have them now, and that a condom or the pill would work best for this. I, on the other hand, don't feel comfortable using these methods, because they are not part of Natural Family Planning, which I was always taught is the only way accepted by the Catholic church. However, I understand my husband's point that NFP doesn't always work. In fact, he is a product of his parents' failed attempt at it, as are almost all of my many siblings! With this in mind, we are skeptical about NFP, especially so early in our marriage and taking into consideration the financial circumstances. In addition, these disagreements sometimes lead to us not being intimate at all, because I don't want to engage in sex if it involves a forbidden form of birth control. This, of course, leaves my husband very frustrated, and does not help our situation!

Please consul us on what to do, as we love each other very much, we want to have children together at some point, and we want to do what is right in God's eyes, but disagree on how to go about doing it!

Sincerely,

A Newlywed

Fr. John Malloy answers:

Julia,

I answer your question after a prayer to the Holy Spirit for help in explaining what I suggest for your consideration.

It is indeed a difficult problem for many young couples who wish to delay pregnancy, but cannot abstain form intimate encounters.

Unfortunately many, whom I would call bad counselors, have confused young people into accepting forms of contraception contrary to the clear teachings of our faith.

You know, and your husband should know, that condoms and pills are not acceptable forms of birth control. Not acceptable in terms of our faith, and not acceptable because of the dangers of the pill, and the mistakes of condoms--results of which can result in either serious medical problems and/or unwanted pregnancies.

You appear to have some experience as to the effects of NFP--or lack thereof. It has gone through several stages of efficacy in recent years. But now NFP properly used is very reliable. The pill and the use of condoms are not guaranteed to work all the time. NFP can be as safe.

I do not know what access you have to someone trained in NFP. You need someone who is current in the program. Information might be best obtained from your diocesan office--or your pastor might be able to help you.

We all need more trust in the Lord and acceptances of his plan for us. Do not make the mistake of thinking that we have to have everything we could possibly need before bringing children into the world. I think of my own parents: father who worked for the railroad and a stay at home mom who raised eight children (who did some part-time work on occasion).

We went though the great depression of the thirties, but never went hungry, even when a railroad strike put dad out of work and without any social umbrella. God did provide then and He still does. I learned the lesson: One can always get by with much less than thought needed.

May God bless your married life and keep your faith strong. Remember it takes three to get married : you, your husband and the Lord. Your third partner will show you the way.

Yours with a prayer,

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB


On January 13, we received this question:

Father,

i noticed that you onced stated that anyone who masturbate should refrain from receiving Communion.. and yet you said that it is not a mortal sin in "some circumstances" then if it was true, could you explain father the following statements i"ve read from the sources below?

(Human Sexuality: New Directions in American Catholic Thought:) "... Persons seriously struggling with the task of integrating their sexuality, especially adolescents , should be encouraged to receive the Eucharist every oppurtunity EVEN though occasional incidents of masturbation may occur. The presumption should be that such persons have not sinned gravely and consequently have not lost their right to receive the sacraments., The regular celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation and the wise counsel of a prudent confessor can provide additional support in the struggle toward integration.. Immediate confession after each act of masturbation ought not to be encouraged though periodic discusion of one's progress in this area can be prove helpful to the counselee or penitent"

and then , in a book Contemporary Problems in Moral Theology, by: Charles Curran.. p176 we read....

"...Catholic Educators should openly teach that masturbation is not always grave matter and most times not that important. Thus., Masturbatory activity should not be a reason PREVENTING AN ADOLESCENT FROM FULL PARTICIPATION OF THE EUCHARIST."

Father, once ive read it , i doubt the book written by Charles Curran.. yet it seems to be authentic once i saw that the said book has a "nihil obstat" and "impramatur"..

nihil obstat: Louis J. Putz, CSC,University of Notre Dame

impramatur: Leo A. Pursley, DD, Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend

on the other hand, i personally encountered a Theologian, whose Doctorate in Sacred Theolgy was obtained from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.. told me that masturbation should not prevent me in participating and receiving Holy Communion.. his Masters Degree was obatined from the Royal Pontifical University of Sto.Tomas.. thus it seems to me that what they were saying is true.. because there is so called "opinio Probabilis" which helps the laity.. pls Father.. tell me your answers.. God Bless

Fr. John Malloy responds:

Adrian,

I do not disagree with the general contents of your letter. It's the particular emphasis that I am concerned about, especially Curran's "most times not that important."

Sin is ALWAYS an important consideration for us--even venial sins.

Another key consideration is "occasional"--as distinguished from "habitual."

Immediate confession after an occasional act of masturbation may not always be possible and the opportunity to receive communion is available. Making an act of contrition with the promise to mention it the next time you receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation I would not see as wrong.

The other warning is "seriously struggling." If one is seriously struggling with the problem, the presumption is good will of the "sinner." In that case one of the components of grave sin is lacking "the will to do it." Mortal sin needs 1) serious matter 2) full consent of the will. Communion may be received, since full consent was lacking, and that diminishes the gravity of the sin..

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB


On January 7, we received this question:

My husband is Catholic and I am attending RCIA. We were married by a justice of the peace and we now have 3 children and one on the way. My husband was told by a preist that this is a venial sin. However, we have recently been told that it is a mortal sin!! I had no idea it was a sin at all. We are now being told that we must live in abstinence for 4-5 months until we go to marriage classes and get our marriage blessed. For us, this could take even longer as my husband is doing his medical residency and works 70-110 hrs a week and we have 3 children and We attend mass and RCIA.. We feel really stuck and are not sure if this correct and how to maneuver this situation.. any input?

D.

Fr. John Itzaina responds:

Dear "Caught between a rock and a hard place,"

I don't know how it is possible to married to a doctor in residency, have three kids, and be pregnant with a fourth and attend mass and RCIA. In the parish of Saints Peter and Paul the RCIA meets every week on Tuesday and now attends the 5:00 p.m. Sunday Liturgy of the Word before being sent off for scripture study, etc. To try to juggle all these things, become a Catholic, sacramentalize your marriage, and worry whether you've committed a venial or mortal sin, is beyond me.

Instead of condemning your lifestyle, I would like to commend you on striving to answer God's call to become a Catholic and to be married in the Church. That journey, however, is not done in a vacuum or an aceptic environment. Most of our lives involves messy circumstances. The "messy circumstances" of your life involves a marriage contracted civilly with a Catholic man, outside of the Catholic Church and so irregular. Jesus calls us to contribute to building the kingdom. It seems that you're trying to do that, despite those of us trying to put a "venial" or a "mortal" in front of the sin that all of us are guilty of.

In mission territories, where the presence of a priest is just a yearly occurrance, couples would exchange their promises, live together (with sexual intimacy) and then have their marriage blessed when the priest would show up. I realize that no example fits perfectly, and all analogies limp, stagger, or trip, but my opinion, and it's just an opinion, is for you to do just that: continue going to mass and attending RCIA, and sustaining your marriage by all the things that married people do. Come Easter Vigil, your joy will be full!

Fr. John (I hope I have said the right thing) Itzaina, SDB


On December 26, we received this question:

Dear Father,

I am in a serious relationship of almost 6 years, and my boyfriend and I want to get married. I have had premartial sex, and when I found that it was a mortal sin, I went to confession. However, my boyfriend believes that people should only confess to God, not to man. I have explained to him that Jesus gave priests the power to hear confessions and forgive sins, but it doesn't help. How can I help him? I have been praying to God that He will help me to help my boyfriend or that He will help him. I also know that anyone wearing the Scapular before they die does not go to hell. Furthermore, is oral sex premartial sex too? I had only confessed I had premartial sex, but should I have been more specific and said I have had oral sex? I didn't mean to not say I had oral sex, and now I am wondering if my sins for oral sex have been forgiven.

Second, I was reading that using contraceptives is mortal sin. Is this true, and if it is, does it apply to married couples too? When we are married, can we use condoms? When we are married, is it okay if we have sex and he does not ejaculate into me or "pulls out"?

Third, since I know pre-martial sex is wrong, oral sex before marriage must be wrong too, but what about intimate caresses over breasts and genitals, either covered or uncovered by clothing? Is it wrong to take naps while being dressed in underwear? Is it wrong to masturbate to each other? What about humping? And are each of these mortal sins or venial sins?

Thanks,

Jacqueline

Fr. John Malloy responds:

Jacquelyn,

Here's an address you can click on to answer most of your quetions regarding premarital sex. http://www.allaboutworldview.org/premarital-sex.htm

You will find a clear presentation of the teachings of our Church and good quotes to support that teaching.

Premarital sex is a mortal sin and that includes oral sex. You might mention that the next time you go to confession. Meanwhile don't worry about your past confession, if you are truly sorry and promise to avoid such sin in the future. Your previous confession was valid, since a mortal sin requires not only consent but knowing that it is evil.

About the scapular: That's a pious devotiion and I do recommend wearing one, but it is not an infallible talisman. You will avoid hell only by avoiding or repenting of mortal sin. No doubt a strong devion to Our Lady will help us us seek that needed repentance to save us from hell.

Contraception is wrong for the married as welll as the unmarried. Condoms are wrong and should not be used.

Conception may properly be avoided by married couples with the practice of family planning. It's as safe as condoms, when properly applied, and allows the couple to engage in sexual intercourse. without pregnancy.

Your third point: "intimate caresses over breasts and genitals, either covered or uncovered by clothing" = allowed to the married, not the unwed.

"naps while being dressed in underwear"- not recommended to the unwed, because of the temptation to go further.

"Is it wrong to masturbate to each other?" It's a serious sin. That includes humping.

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB


On October 26, we received this question:

Father, please give me a good advice..

i could not imagine how grave is the sin of masturbation. the church have always thought that it was a mortal sin, although some modern theologians says it was a mere venial sin. what is the truth? because i frequently cannot receive communion bec. of this sin. can i receive communion ? thanks

Fr. John Malloy answers:

Dear Christian,

No good moral theologian would say that masturbation is a mere venial sin in view of the fact that the Catholic Catechism does declare masturbation to be "an intrinsically and gravely disordered action." (#2352).That has always been the teaching of the Catholic faith.

However, it seems for some, that no matter how much one prays or how much he/she regrets their action, they are unable to resist, particularly at certain times of the day or night. Once the chain is formed, the habit started, it becomes for them, impossible to break.

Accept the fact that nothing is impossible to God. If not today, tomorrow, if not tomorrow the next day, or the day thereafter or. . . but never give up the battle, and never stop asking forgiveness. Victory comes to those who fight.

For your own peace of mind, here are some consoling words from the Catholic Catechism. (2345)

"To form an equitable judgment about the subjects' moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the effective immaturity , force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety, or other psychological or social factors that can lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability."

While masturbation is a "grave and disordered action" that does not make it always a mortal sin. Circumstances may lessen the guilt. However, it would be better not to make your own personal judgment, but rather allow your confessor to judge, after you present you case in confession.

One does not have to receive Communion at every Mass. Always avoid any possibility of receiving the sacrament unworthily--which would add another sin to our conscience.

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB


On September 16, we received this question:

Father,

I have been struggling with sexual sin probably since I was about 5 yo. I am now 27 years old. I seem to keep going further and further into sin. I began masterbating regularly at 15, pornography at 18, strip clubs at 21 and now just tonight I called a prostitute. Luckily, I didn't have sex with her. I feel as though I am trapped in this sin.

Since about the age of 18 I have really wanted to have a girlfriend and when it didn't happen quickly enough I began using porn to alleviate the longing for companionship. It has been virtually the same ever since. Now I am actively trying to find freedom, but when I try to pray I get a feeling that "If you keep praying; God isn't going to help you find a woman, but he is going to make you a priest." This "voice" causes me a lot of anxiety and I have been lashing out by not praying; going to strip clubs more frequently and now this latest episode.

I would really like some advice; first the most important thing is how can I become more at peace with what God may be calling me to do be it priesthood or single life? And finally, do you think I may have a vocation or is this threat to keep me trapped in my sin?

Thanks,

Mark

Fr. John Malloy answers:

Mark,

Your family, religion and your present occupation are all important considerations for finding peace with yourself and with God.

Not knowing your family and not knowing your occupation, let me say a word first about religion. If your are a practicing Catholic, certain obligations are in order;

Do you go to Mass faithfully? Do you go to confession before receiving Holy Communion, when you realize you have done wrong?

How about religious devotions: Do you ever pray the rosary? Do you say prayers in the morning and/or at night on a somewhat regular basis? "More things are wrought by prayer that this world dreams of."

How about joining a singles group?. Many parishes have them.And what about some work of charity on your part? What job do you have, and how can you use it to help your fellow citizens? Can you do something to help the poor and disadvantaged? Do something that will take the focus off of yourself. There are so many needy waiting for the support that you can give.

God helps those who help themselves! We have the Parable of the Prodigal Son in this Sunday Gospel. The message is clear. God forgives us our sins, if we are truly sorry and do our best to avoid them.. We may not succeed at first, but perseverance pays off in the long run. God is always generous in forgiving and welcoming us back home.

When you have the misfortune to fall again, give yourself a penance: for example, give a contribution to some charity, attend an extra Mass, say a rosary, visit some sick persona...These acts can help you re-focus on what is really important in your life: to save your soul.

Priesthood is not a present option for you.Overcome addictions first before considering that. Meanwhile try to associate with a Catholic group of young people.

I pray God's blessing and peace on you.

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB


On July 25, we received this question:

Fathers:

I recently traveled overseas with my girlfriend of almost 2 years. Her parents specifically reminded both of us that engaging in such activity is not appropriate, as we are only dating. Needless to say, we both disregarded their wishes and went anyway, and are now paying the consequences. I have intentioned to marry my girlfriend, but don't even know where to begin in terms of asking her parents for foregiveness and further, asking her father for his permission. Clearly, our decision was not well thought out, but I hope for both of our sake that we did not damage our relationship with each other and also, with her parents. Any advice?

Thanks.

Chris

Fr. John Itzaina answers:

Chris,

I'm not sure what you mean by "paying the consequences." Does it mean your girlfriend is pregnant? Does it mean that her parents are extremely upset, don't want to talk to you, maybe even to their daughter? How old are you and your girlfriend? Are you now living together? All these are circumstances would change your approach to your girlfriend and her parents.

Some facts that may influence your decision to approach her parents:

Many marriages don't fare well statistically where there is co-habitation prior to marriage.

If pregnancy is involved, many times the marriage proposal is not well-thought out. The problem is motivation. Are you getting married because there's a baby on the way or not? Sometimes in these cases, the motivation is clouded by guilt, fear and confusion.

Couples contemplating marriage and a life-long commitment have enough factors on their plate without extenuating circumstances.

So, I think I have more questions than advice of how to approach your girlfriend's parents, but there are questions important for your intended marriage.

Fr. John Itzaina


On July 22, we received this question:

Fathers:

I have two questions. First, I am currently pregnant so of course there is no way our sexual intercourse could be procreative. Is it a sin for me to stimulate my husband with my hand until he ejaculates? Second, there were many questions on your website pertaining to male masturbation but not females. I know that it is a sin for a man to masturbate and it is referred to as the sin of Onan (I think). From this I know that it would also be a sin for a wife to do this to her husband, even though it technically wouldn't be called masturbation. But what about a husband stimulating his wife to an orgasm with his hand? It wouldn't seem to be frustrating the sexual act because procreation doesn't depend at all upon a woman orgasming. Personally, my husband and I have always had intercourse and THEN he stimulates me with his hand because I do not have orgasms with penetration. Is this a sin?

Samantha

Fr. John Itzaina answers:

That's really a good question concerning stimulating the female spouse after intercourse when during sexual intercourse the woman doesn't come to orgasm. It is not a sin when it is in the course of natural sexual intercourse. Of course, in an ideal world a couple would come to orgasm simultaneously; but that doesn't happen in the real world. So, coming to orgasm by spousal stimulation is permissible...following intercourse. We're not talking about an hour after sex, but immediately following sexual intercourse.

Your other question, if I understand, is whether it is permissible to "stimulate my husband with my hand until he ejaculates?" If it isn't connected to intercourse and part of foreplay (actions that arouse the couple for intercourse) then it is not permitted. Then, your actions of stimulation would be considered a form of masturbation.

How sinful are your actions? To be gravely sinful, you have to have serious matter, full consent and knowledge. Sex is certainly a serious matter, integral to the relationship of a married couple; but full knowledge and consent are not always present in the heat of the moment. I would think that the most enduring and satisfying and holy sexual act would be done intensely, with intention, and with great love, always open to new life.

Sex is serious sacramental business, signifying God's presence in the life of the spouses and for the rest of us in the Church.

Fr. John Itzaina, SDB


On July 9, we received this question:

Hello Fathers,

My husband and I have been married for 6 years, and have 3 children (a fourth on the way). I recently converted to Catholicism, my husband is Catholic.

I have suffered from severe depression since the birth of my twins 3 years ago. I have been taking medication for this, and it is working well.

However, the medication has affected my level of desire, rendering it almost non-existent. I feel that sex during marriage is a joyful time of giving and sharing. However, with no physical response on my part, I do not feel I can join with my husband in the spirit of giving.

I have found help several times through the use of marital "aids", and sexually-themed books and videos. Each time, however, I have gone to confession, feeling that I have sinned (I did not give the priest my reasons for using these items).

Is it a sin to use marital aids to allow me to have the physical response(s) necessary to joyfully give myself to my husband?

Shannon

Fr. Harold Danielson responds:

Dear Shannon,

Praise to the Lord that you share the same Faith as your husband. Certainly love, the common life together, children and Faith are working foundations for your life as wife and mother.

I am an amateur, of course, in things medical. But a doctor friend of mine, for whom my mother was secretary-receptionist for many years, told me once that any time you put strong chemicals into the body, it messes up the body in all kinds of uncanny ways. This is the first thing that came to my mind when you say you are still on medication after three years. These early years are wonderful years to be shared by a mother as her children are discovering the world bit by bit. Enjoy the delight they experience. I do not know how medication fits into this. But I would say, the more you enjoy your children, the more you can share and enjoy with your husband, even physically.

For enjoying your children from birth, why not look up La Leche League and their publications and inter-relational activities, even locally, promoting breastfeeding. The joy you experience with your infant will be the joy you share with your husband.

Also I think you and your husband should look into the underlying principles and practices of the so-called Natural Family Planning. If you type CATHOLIC UPDATE in the Search box of your internet, the first thing that comes up is this month's issue, which is on Natural Family Planning. There are usually several places to receive orientation on this, including the Couple to Couple League where besides publications there may be local centers too.

So these are two person to person groups/organizations which may help you to simply enjoy your children and your husband more so that you may not feel the need for "marital aids". These things are very quickly habit-forming, which in effect does not build the relationship, but objectifies it, taking out precisely the thing you are looking for: enhanced shared physical and spiritual experience with your husband.

Blessings and peace!

Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB


On June 16, we received these questions:

Dear Father(s),

I am a 13 year old freshman in High School. I attend a Catholic High School, but I am Protestant. I have been reading the page on your website concerning the question over whether non-Catholics should receive the Holy Eucharist. Anyway, I am writing this to say to you that I am thinking about converting to Catholicism when I become older to make my own religious decisions. My family is Protestant (very religious) and most of them say that I should do whatever I feel will bring me closer to God and his Son, Jesus Christ. Maybe, this is just a stage that I am going through, but I could really use some advice. Also, within the past year and a half, I have become closer to God in my walk of faith, and one of the main things that I have noticed that are happening to me are that there seems to be more temptation, more daily issues that are continuously popping up as if they are trying to prevent me from praying and growing closer to God. I do not know what to do and I feel terrible. For months, I have been thinking about consulting a priest, but then again, I am not Catholic. In addition to that, I recently committed a terrible sin, which I think is mortal and I have been having fears that I might not go to Heaven. I have prayed and asked God to forgive me, but then I have committed the sin over again. I tried not to, but the issue just happened. I asked God's forgiveness again. After asking forgiveness, this terrible feeling of guilt came over me. Please help me, pray for me, and tell me what I could do to overcome this spiritual hindrance in my faith life. Thankyou.

God Bless,

Nich

Fr. John Malloy responds:

Dear Nich,

Your letter is very well written and your heartfelt seeking to draw closer to the Lord is a grace of the Holy Spirit. You are blest with a family that loves the Lord.

I do believe the Sprit is calling you to the Catholic Church. But the road to heaven is not easy for anyone, not even the saints.

But know that the Lord is merciful and loves you no matter what you do or do not do.

He is always ready to forgive any sin, as long as one is truly sorry and promises to avoid it as much as possible in the future.

For a young man or woman who is reaching the age of young adulthood the temptations become stronger as he/she wrestle with their body and its urges.

These main sources of these temptations for almost all of us are sexual urges. The reason for these feelings is for the propagation of the human race.

I'm sure you have seen the pornography so easily available in film and print and on the internet. Your heart and mind tell you that it is pretty rotten---the way it is presented.

But why then does it interest us and draw us to look, see, touch? In itself sex is not bad--in fact it is good, because that's how God planned the propagation of his people--and it is good when it is reserved for that purpose and the love of husband and wife--BUT not for selfish reasons that pervert the sexual act.

Young (and old) folks who give in to these urges, without trying to avoid them, often give up completely. We see the results in those who profess to advance a life style that makes sex acts right that are wrong. Unfortunately drug use also often goes hand in had with this mentality.

How can we offer help in this matter of growing in grace and avoiding sin?

Prayer is important and don't give up, even if it seems useless. It is never useless.

The avoidance of evil talk and evil shows and evil occasions helps enormously. Choose good companions.

Speak to the Lord each night before you go to sleep and review the day, ask for help and forgiveness for anything done amiss and sleep in peace! (for that night of course!)

If you have any further questions, please do not be afraid to ask. You are in my prayers and know that God loves you!

You can look in ASK THE FATHERS in the sexuality section and find some more discussion about this if you wish.

Fr. John Malloy, SDB


On April 25, we received this question:

Dear Father,

I am a seventeen year old teen, and am going through masturbation issues. I've read up on how this process is natural and that it has many positive side affects. I want to be devoted to the Catholic Church, but at times it seems that I do it with out even thinking. This has lead me into a controversial situation. Why is masturbation wrong if it's natural?

Thanks

Fr. Malloy responds:

Dear Matthew,

Feelings, urges, inclinations: they are all and part and parcel of our nature.

Sexual feelings and inclinations are natural and promote the continuance of the human race. We know that life would not go on without intercourse between man and woman.

Difficulties do get in the way of a peaceful resolution to our urges. We cannot exercise our power to procreate whenever we feel we would like to do so, even though it is natural.

The desire is there, but the possibility may not be: it may be unlawful. As Catholics, we have clear limitations of what is or is not allowed; what is or is not sinful. Can I submit to masturbation to quell the urge? Can I find a prostitute, or a girl willing to give in?

I presume you are well enough informed to know the Catholic answer.

What does the sixth commandment forbid? Basically it requires us to rein in our urges and prepare ourselves for the proper, sacramental opportunity: marriage.

Masturbation is not in itself natural. It thwarts the purpose of the marital sex: a sacrament for the procreation of new life and the mutual comfort of man and wife.

Masturbation does not have any good side effects contrary to what is so often taught. Sperm ejaculated can as easily be absorbed by the body itself.

Also the "old wives tales" about physical horrors that would follow masturbation are not true. Physically masturbation does not harm us, but when we give in to sexual acts and fantasies, we are weakened spiritually. Our conscience tells us it is not proper to masturbate. Those who tell us not to be concerned do not accept the Commandment of God. They act as the devil in our midst. As Catholics, we are called to overcome evil with good and the good should begin by being good to our own bodies. Chastity for the love of Christ is a great gift we can give back to the God who made us and wants us for himself one day. It’s a daily battle of good against evil.

You are on the right track in asking this question and I admire you for it. Young people do not ordinarily like to address such questions to their elders.

I hope this helps a bit in your understanding of this delicate problem. If you question anything I have said. I would appreciate your letting me know. It is not an easy subject to explore. I have also attached a previous answer to a similar question.

Fr. John Malloy, SDB

On May 18, 2005, a person asked:

Father,

I am an unmarried Catholic in my early mid twenties who struggles daily with the sin of masturbation. This is a great temptation for me, one which I have tried resist but unfortunately have been unable to always do. Is masturbation still considered as gravely sinful by the Church as it was previously? Also, if one masturbates frequently, either do to temptation or force of habit, is the sin nullified somewhat?

I have tried to stop this act and have even been temporarily able to for a while, but in the end I just can't help myself. Is there any definite way for me to break this sinful cycle once and for all?

Thank you and please pray for me!

Fr. Malloy responds:

You suffer from concupiscence, we all do--if we are human! And it stems from the sin of Adam and Eve after the first fall.

I like to begin any discussion of this topic with the statement that God made us sexual beings. The pleasure of the flesh encourages the population of the race and makes possible new members for the kingdom of heaven. Our problem is to contain our sexual urges and direct them according to God's plan, which is reached through the sacrament of matrimony--the union of one man and one woman.

The Catholic Catechism does declare masturbation to be "an intrinsically and gravely disordered action." (#2352).That has always been the teaching of the Catholic faith.

This is accepted by most Christians who have had a minimum of religious education and are open to God's plan of life.

However, that does not lessen our own urges that propel us along a sexual route before we have made the marriage commitment that would allow us to exercise them according to God's plan. How do we rein in these urges? The Fathers of the Church have long suggested "prayer and penance and fasting." St. John Bosco used to encourage his youngsters to say three "Hail Mary's" before getting into bed, as a protection against sin.

However, it seems for some, that no matter how much one prays or how much he/she regrets their action, they are unable to resist, particularly at certain times of the day or night. Once the chain is formed, the habit started, it becomes for them, impossible to break.

Accept the fact that nothing is impossible to God. If not today, tomorrow, if not tomorrow the next day, or the day thereafter or. . . but never give up the battle, and never stop asking forgiveness. Victory comes to those who fight.

For your own peace of mind, here are some consoling words from the Catholic Catechism. (2345)

"To form an equitable judgment about the subjects' moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the effective immaturity , force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety, or other psychological or social factors that can lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability."

Cheer up! God loves you. You are on the right path, and never give up.

You are in my prayers, Please pray for me.

Fr. John Malloy


On April 19, we received this question:

Fathers:

I am a Gay man, and have been in the same gay relationship for 16 years. I am a catholic and also a Church Organist, School Governor and a former employee of the Archdiocese. I was recently dismissed from my post, two days after dismissal I heard from the Child Protection team to say they had evidence of Child pornography on my works computer. The police have checked my computer and say there is no evidence that would stand in court for child pornography.

The child protection risk management team have now deemed it that I am unsuitable to hold any formal role within the Archdiocese. I have been an active member of the catholic Church since the age of seven, I am now 39, and never once acted inappropriately towards any member of the same sex whether they be a minor nor an adult.

I think I am being discriminated against for being Gay, does it mean because I am gay I am automatically a Paedophile ? I am an adult, is it not for me to deal with my conscience and God if I do browse Gay Porn, I have never intentionally searched for children and I do actually deplore the thoughts of abuse against a child whether it be sexual or not.

Because I am in a relationship I do refrain from taking Holy Communion but still long for the precious body and blood of my saviour.

regards

Allan

Fr. John Malloy responds:

Dear Alan,

I admit that you are being discriminated against, but not for being gay. Your claim not be a pedophile convinces me, but you openly admit to sexual acts that are against the sixth commandment and live a life style that is incompatible with your Catholic faith. For that, discrimination is mandatory.

Not approaching the Eucharist is commendable, to act otherwise would be a sacrilege

You understand that there is no sin that cannot be forgiven, but purpose of amendment and firm resolution to avoid the occasion are necessary conditions.

And yes, it is proper to "deal with my conscience and God," but that conscience must be well formed, dependent on God's commands and in line with the teachings of the Catholic faith.

Fr. John Malloy, SDB

PS: Struggling with Same-Sex Attraction? You are NOT alone and the Church has NOT abandoned you! Visit the COURAGE website. "COURAGE" is an apostolate of the Church that ministers to those struggling against this particular temptation. They have been endorsed by the Pontifical Council for the Family and our beloved John Paul II said of this ministry: "COURAGE is doing the work of God!"


On April 2, we received this question:

Hi Fathers,

I am wondering what the churches views are regarding in vitro fertilization. My husband and I have been trying to conceive for 4 years now. We have tried several other options with no success and would like to proceed with further treatments.

Thanks,

Christi

Fr. Harold Danielson responds:

Dear Christi,

Your short letter begins to express the longing for children in a similar way of some of the personages of the Old and New Testament Scriptures beginning from Abraham and Sarah, and Jacob and Rachel, Hannah, and so on from the people of Israel, then Elizabeth and Zecharia in the Gospel of Luke.

The Community of the disciples of Jesus [the Church] desires everything to be in its natural setting, from conception to natural death. Humanity must be guided by the inherent value and dignity of the human person in its efforts to provide ways and means to achieve its goals. Science or medicine which disregards this, in the collective thought of the People of God as expressed in the direct teaching of its Magisterium, departs from the realm of ethical goodness. [See Catechism of the Catholic Church #2373 - 2379]

Your letter speaks about "several other options" you have pursued. Let me attempt to put some further context about this, since you didn't note what they were.

I'll ask or write about some human things, then later make a jump to Faith. One of the results of the various Natural Family Planning methods is that couples may use the information and experience gained to actually know when the best timing to unite for the procreation of a child is. I probably have to assume that this has been your starting point. If not, then some more options have opened up.

I remember a couple I know well, who were involved as part of a team giving a Marriage Encounter week end. They had been trying for a second child for some time with no results. But on this week end, on a free period, they exercised their marital privileges in a relaxed atmosphere as a preparation for their next talk. They told me afterward that they were sure that was the occasion of the conception of their son. So relaxing and enjoying each other without the tension and stress of "getting it right this time" would seem to be a pre-requisite.

Now jumping to a Faith context. If you type 'Patron Saints' on your search engine, you will get an index of so many patron Saints. When you then look up conception or pregnancy there is a list of Saints. Read a little about a few of them.

Agatha has a striking history; Anne, mother of Mary; Elizabeth, cousin of Mary [not on the first list you find]; St. Anthony of Padua; St. Rita of Cascia; St. Gerard Majella; and so many others throughout history.

I want to invite you to learn about one of our Salesian Saints: Dominic Savio. He was a pupil of St. John Bosco, our Founder. You'll find a special incident in his life about going home to see his mother, at the time going through a difficult labor. He embraced her and left a holy picture around her neck, then left to go to his uncle's house as his father had told him. By the time his father had returned home with the doctor, a little daughter was already born. So a special devotion in his village built up for his intercession after he died at the age of 15. From there a devotion has spread to Dominic Savio for difficulties in pregnancy or conception all over the world where we Salesians are.Of course, there are some things Catholics particularly should do beyond praying through the intercession of St. Dominic Savio. That is: lead a full Christian life. That means a life of Christian virtue which includes Sunday Mass, receiving Holy Communion, celebrating Reconciliation [confession] frequently, personal and communal prayer. You make up your mind and actually do these things; then who knows what God has in mind for you!

That last thought is most important. What is God inviting you to? That calls for a wonderful openness on your part. Perhaps there is a child needing a father and mother through adoption or foster care. Perhaps as you become more open to Jesus by frequent Communion and Penance and Mass [even more often than Sundays] the Lord may be inviting you to be lay missionaries for a year or two or more. Perhaps…etc.

Blessings and Peace!

Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB


On January 6, we received this question:

I have masturbated for 30 years. I had perverted impure thoughts while masturbating. I have been addicted to porn for about 26 years. I am very terrified of going to hell when I die. I have cried out to God but passages like hebrews 6, 4-6 terrify me. I am trying to get right with God.

Fr. Harold Danielson responds:

What agony you express in the short note to our question page.

The only attitude and action of God our Father regarding you right now - and always - is "You poor guy" and enfolding you in His arms, hoping you will let go and let Him enter into your heart and mind and soul.

We human beings, a mixture of matter and spirit; how that matter acts up in our lives and tries to bring everything else of our selves down! However, God our loving Creator always gives us the strength to get up and start over again, every single day.

You did not give your own faith heritage in your short note. But, since you wrote to a part of the web site of SS. Peter & Paul Catholic Church, I can presume that your own background is Catholic.

Thus, I shall point out two things: First a quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This book was produced by order of Pope John Paul II to bring together in an organic way the ordinary teachings of the Catholic Church in one volume. It has become a tremendous source book since publication in 1994. To end up in eternity totally separated from God (that is hell), one must be in the state of grave, serious, deadly [mortal] sin. Bishop Morrow, in his book My Catholic Faith first published in 1948, states unequivocally: "Mortal sin presupposes a hatred of God." [italics of Bishop Morrow] Now back to the Catechism , there is a specific paragraph which goes to the evaluation of any particular individual's state of serious sin. It is #2352.

I cite the whole paragraph because it is just one sentence:

"To form an equitable judgment about the subject's moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that can lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability."

So there are a lot of things that come together making what you do or think very little on the grand moral scale.

However, as a disciple of Jesus (God) we are each invited to "take up the cross every day and follow Me." This means daily personal decision and also partaking in the Sacraments of the gathered community of disciples [the Church]. This means Sunday Mass, frequent confession, daily prayer as the Holy Spirit inspires, and so on. It especially means, every day stopping for a moment to give everything of our life, all the good and beautiful, all the ugly and awful, into the care of our loving Father and begin again walking with the Lord. This is the most important daily task of the disciple.

If Jesus (Lord and God) tells us that we must forgive every time we are asked, try to imagine how much God Himself wants to forgive when asked. So that's our job, every day to begin again with God's Son, asking f

A help for this may be found in an offshoot movement inspired from Alcoholics Anonymous. It is Sexaholics Anonymous. There are meetings of people in a similar situation all over. Look them up on the website.

Many blessings for 2007!

Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB


On November 20, we received this question:

Dear Father,

I am a devout Catholic who wants to be married in church. My fiance wants to be married in a court house. Can we do both? Get married first in a court house, then plan the big ceremony 3 months later in the church and reception hall? We want to become legally married for legal reasons, but I want a winter wedding in 07 and in a church for religious reasons? Please help.

Tina

Fr. Harold Danielson responds:

Dear Tina,

You prefix your query with the phrase "I am a devout Catholic." That is marvelous. So my first answer is: Similarly as in several nations a civil marriage is demanded before any religious ceremony, you could get married civilly as long as you do not consider yourself married yet, in regard to consummating the marriage, until it is done in church. For this you should already by this time be in contact with your local parish priest to begin marriage preparation. I know that most parishes in the country expect a minimum of 6 months from the first time a couple meets with the parish priest or deacon. In some dioceses it may be more; in some parishes like ours at Sts. Peter & Paul in San Francisco, the first contact has to be much longer before the wedding, as the three wedding times each Saturday fill up very quickly.

If perchance, though being "a devout Catholic," you are already in a regular consummated relationship, then what is the big deal about getting a legal civil document for a marriage, and then getting that "convalidated" [technical term for getting a marriage "blessed" in the Church]?

I realize that the above is quite straightforward. It arises out of experience in 8 different parishes in two Provinces in Canada and two States of the USA. It has become rare that couples coming for marriage are not only not living together, but also are not having intimate, regular, consummating intercourse. For Catholic Christians truly living their Faith who make a mistake and then right away go for the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession), that is one thing. As weak human beings, we are all liable to stumble. Beginning again with Reconciliation is part of being a devout Catholic. It is up to us to choose in response to the call of Jesus each day of our lives.

When couples come for Christian Marriage who give the same address, we take them where they are at [as Jesus did] and lead them to celebrate well their Sacrament in the context of Church.

Lastly, you did not write whether your fiancé is Catholic or not, baptized or not. Whatever his status, if you truly love him and he truly loves you, then he would honor and respect your own practice of Faith, notwithstanding his own practice or lack thereof.

I hope this has given you a basis and a context for your decision making.

Blessings upon you in your marriage preparation!

Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB


On October 18 we received this question:

Dear Father,

I am writing to ask for your help and obtain your insight on our situation.

We are engaged to be married in June 2007.

We have just found out that we are expecting and feel blessed that we will be bringing a child into the world.

I realize that we have sinned and of course this should not have happened but now feel that we will not be able to have the wedding that we wanted.

The priest has graciously agreed to work with us and support us and marry us but appears that we can only have our family present.

I want to share this day with all my friends and family. I am 37 and have been dreaming of this day my entire life!!

Are we not "allowed" to have a regular church mass due to the circumstances? What if we were to married in a civil ceremony and then have our ceremony at a later time.

Please help!

Fr. Malloy responds:

Here is an opportunity to renew your faith in the Lord and implore his blessing on you and your family.

My suggestion would be to go to confession, seek pardon of the Lord and make a promise to avoid sexual intimacy until you have pronounced your vows before God. He is ever ready to forgive us, when we seek his pardon and promise to avoid evil in the future.

This would be best way to begin your new life together.

I myself see no reason why you cannot have a full family and friends marriage, mass and all. Do not be afraid to let people know that you are not proud of what has happened, but the Lord has blessed you with a gift that you can bring up to be one of His faithful followers.

I see no reason to have a civil ceremony. It will not make your union before God legitimate and only complicate your Church wedding in the future.

Fr. John Malloy, S.D.B.


On August 23, 2005 a person asked:

Hi, I am in a serious relationship with a man. We are both in our 40's and have been married before. Recently we brought up our sexual preferences about what we like and do not like and so forth for the intention of making sure we agree in this area too...was that ok?

Also, sometimes he emails me with a little sexual flirtation and I reply back. It is nothing that arouses us...just fun play...and in a way still finding out what we like in that area.

Is that ok?

Thanks!

Fr. Malloy responds:

You mention that you are in a serious relationship, but is your question really serious? If you are asking for a Christian perspective in the matter of sexuality, the answer is relatively simple. Sexuality is not just fun play; it is a serious committment and to be engaged in only by married couples. For us it is sacramental and sacred, and certainly may be enjoyed, but in the context of what the union is created for--the begetting of children.

To agree on what each of you find acceptable in a sexual relationship is certainly a requirement to be addressed before any engagement. The Christian limits are well known, or easily learned, and a marriage where the moral rules are not observed is doomed to failure.

I remember a remark I once head from the then-well-known commedian, Joe. E. Brown: "I never told a joke I wouldn't repeat in front of my grandmother." I think it is good advice for e-mailing, too!

Fr. John Malloy


On May 18, 2005, a person asked:

Father,

I am an unmarried Catholic in my early mid twenties who struggles daily with the sin of masturbation. This is a great temptation for me, one which I have tried resist but unfortunately have been unable to always do. Is masturbation still considered as gravely sinful by the Church as it was previously? Also, if one masturbates frequently, either do to temptation or force of habit, is the sin nullified somewhat?

I have tried to stop this act and have even been temporarily able to for a while, but in the end I just can't help myself. Is there any definite way for me to break this sinful cycle once and for all?

Thank you and please pray for me!

Father Malloy Responds:

You suffer from concupiscence, we all do--if we are human! And it stems from the sin of Adam and Eve after the first fall.

I like to begin any discussion of this topic with the statement that God made us sexual beings. The pleasure of the flesh encourages the population of the race and makes possible new members for the kingdom of heaven. Our problem is to contain our sexual urges and direct them according to God's plan, which is reached through the sacrament of matrimony--the union of one man and one woman.

The Catholic Catechism does declare masturbation to be "an intrinsically and gravely disordered action." (#2352).That has always been the teaching of the Catholic faith.

This is accepted by most Christians who have had a minimum of religious education and are open to God's plan of life.

However, that does not lessen our own urges that propel us along a sexual route before we have made the marriage commitment that would allow us to exercise them according to God's plan. How do we rein in these urges? The Fathers of the Church have long suggested "prayer and penance and fasting." St. John Bosco used to encourage his youngsters to say three "Hail Mary's" before getting into bed, as a protection against sin.

However, it seems for some, that no matter how much one prays or how much he/she regrets their action, they are unable to resist, particularly at certain times of the day or night. Once the chain is formed, the habit started, it becomes for them, impossible to break.

Accept the fact that nothing is impossible to God. If not today, tomorrow, if not tomorrow the next day, or the day thereafter or. . . but never give up the battle, and never stop asking forgiveness. Victory comes to those who fight.

For your own peace of mind, here are some consoling words from the Catholic Catechism. (2345)

"To form an equitable judgment about the subjects' moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the effective immaturity , force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety, or other psychological or social factors that can lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability."

Cheer up! God loves you. You are on the right path, and never give up.

You are in my prayers, Please pray for me.

Fr. John Malloy

  


A past questioner asked:

Dear Fathers:

You have probably heard of St. John the Baptist Church in Costa Mesa, which was recently in the news because some parents and members are concerned about the scandal of the male same-sex "couple" who have enrolled their two adopted children in the parish school.

The concerns center on the high visability of the two men who attend all school functions and Holy Mass as a "family" with their four adopted children.

It has been learned that the men belong to a "gay" activist group, "Family Pride Coalition", take their children to social events where everyone has two "daddies" or two "mommies" and that one of the men was featured in an article in the New York Times titled "Two Fathers, One Happy to Stay Home." The two men are listed as "father" and "father" of the two children in the school directory. "Family Pride Coalition" is primarily concerned with supporting "families" headed by same-sex couples, helping them integrate into communities and schools and the organization advocates for same-sex "marriage." In fact the Executive Director has appeared before Congress to advocate for it.

Those who have raised the issue are primarily concerned with the scandal portrayed by the situation wherein the same-sex "family" appears simply as one of many "kinds of families." In fact when our daughter posed the question "what will you tell a child who asks "how come 'johnny' has two daddies?" to the first grade teacher of our two grandchildren, her response was that she would tell "johnny" that there are all kinds of families.

My concern is that the other children will come to believe that same-sex couples are fine and that their "marriage" is equivalent to marriage between one man and one woman. Not only that, will they not believe that is what their Church believes since the men are so nice and welcomed by many other parents, the teachers and the Principal?

Some have said, "but they are such wonderful parents." The school principal has expressed the opinion that the children have been rescued. On the contrary, they are being indoctrinated into a destructive and dangerous lifestyle. I pray for them and the other children as well as the two men every day.

This is a difficult pastoral issue. What are your thoughts on it?

Sincerely,

SJB Parishoner

Fr. Malloy responds:

Dear SJB Parishioner,

You do present a difficult pastoral issue. One can seem so callous answering this loaded question.

You ask my thoughts.

My thoughts may appear radical. I would not accept same-sex families in a Catholic school, much as I might sympathizes with the children in such “families” The reason to me seems obvious: scandal. Such a life style is contrary to the Catholic Church. The implication that all unions are OK is contrary to Catholic teaching. In no way should we promote it, and particularly at this time when same sex marriages are being touted on all sides.

The Costa Mesa superintendent of Catholic Schools has said that if Catholic beliefs were strictly adhered to, then children whose parents divorced, used birth control or married outside the church would also have to be banned. It would be wonderful if that were the case in all Catholic Schools—all parents: Catholic to the core!

But the cases are very different. Divorce, birth control or marriages outside the church are not “showcased” in Catholic schools, “Two dads; two moms” would be. The scandal involved is quite different, because the notoriety is quite different.

Family Pride Coalition would like nothing better that to infiltrate the Catholic Church. The Costa Mesa way is opening the door to the enemy of Marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

Fr. John J. Malloy, S.D.B.


A past questioner asked:

Dear Fathers,

I'm relocating to San Francisco and have been considering various types of employment. I thought it would be nice to work for a church, which is how I stumbled upon your website. After reading some of the questions and answers, I realized that someone with my ideas might not even be welcomed in your church. I'm curious if someone like me has a place in the Catholic Church today.

I was raised in the catholic faith, but along the way became what the pope has unhappily referred to as a "cafeteria Catholic". With what I would call an education, but what Father Malloy would probably consider morally sidetracked, I came to realize that I simply did not believe in some of the church's teachings. Not wanting to be so dramatic as to "quit Catholicism", I thought I would take the good things the church has taught me and live my life according to that, yet ignore the teachings that I disagree with. Hence the term cafeteria catholic; picking and choosing what I like about Catholicism and disregarding what I do not like about the teachings. This is all within reason. I forgive others when I don't always want to and I give to others, even when it's at great sacrifice to myself; amongst other things. I don't only play by the rules when it's easy or agreeable.

However, when it comes to intolerance of others life choices, I can not live my life by those sort of philosophies. Although I have a few issues in mind, the most obvious is homosexuality. You can take my statement and turn it into an extreme. I believe Father Malloy compared the marriage of two same sex people to the marriage of a father and daughter. My intention is not to discuss the same sex marriage issue, as I feel the heterosexual community have already destroyed the sanctity of marriage. When 50% of heterosexual marriages fail and we have reality shows like "Who Wants to Marry A Millionaire" I think we better change focus on the marriage issue across the board. My intention is, however, to figure out if I refuse to condemn homosexuality do I even have a place in the Catholic Church anymore? I'm not homosexual, but I certainly have plenty of people in my life who are and I have no issues with it. So, in your opinion, does the Catholic Church want people like me?

Nothing on earth is perfect, including the Catholic Church. Given that other countries have completely different, ancient belief systems then Catholics and given that God has not spoken directly into any of our ears and told us what's what, shouldn't we all be a little open to possibility that we don't really know what God wants, or better yet, what God doesn't want? In a sense, I do respect your ability to have endless faith in written scripture. All I'm saying, is that since none of us really have the answers, maybe we should all pray for tolerance. So again, I must ask, do I have a place in the Catholic Church?

Thank you for listening to me. I appreciate your time.

Sincerely,

Jennifer

 Fr. Malloy Responds:

Dear Jennifer,

Everyone is welcomed in the Catholic Church. Every child born in the USA is a welcomed citizen. But our citizenship in the Church or in the USA is dependent on our keeping the laws. We lose many privileges of USA citizenship when we are caught and prosecuted for failure to abide by the law. So we lose God's grace, when we fail to observe His commandments--any one of them. As Catholics, we believe that God has given us the truth- in His Church, as per the promise to Peter. "On this rock I will build my church and gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

As Catholics we are taught and believe that we know what God wants of us: to know the truth. Truth is in Scripture and Tradition. It's "Tradition" that authenticates Scripture and tradition is preserved through the infallibility of the Holy Father, in union with the Bishops, when dealing with matters of faith and morals.

Such faith and morals do not change with the times. They are inherent in our human nature, grace filled. They are not dependent on changing times or human customs. Love of God and love of neighbor are prime rules for all, but the interpretation of what love consists of is not the free choice of every person. Scripture and the authority of the Church is our infallible guide.

You say you refuse to condemn homosexuality. So do I. It's not up to us to condemn. But homosexual acts are another matter. Stealing is wrong, lying is wrong, murder is wrong, ... impure acts are wrong-no matter how common they may be! To condone them in the name of tolerance is to condone murder or lying, or cheating in the name of tolerance. We do know what God wants of us in these matters--the ten commandments are not ten suggestions.

To say homosexual unions are OK because many heterosexual marriages don't work is a specious argument. Are we allowed to be dishonest because many people are dishonest?

Every sports event would be a disaster if there were no rules of the game. You say you don't only play by the rules when its easy or agreeable. That sounds quite dogmatic--in sync with the Church's teaching. Do you not cotradict yourself then, when you say you are a "cafeteria" Catholic-take what I agree with and ignore what I don't like ?

To answer your question: Yes, you have a place in the Catholic church, but you have got to know the rules of the game, and abide by all of them, if you want to be a player on the team.

Fr. John Malloy, S.D.B.


We received two questions recently about "same-sex marriage":

The first person asked:

Father Malloy has come out strongly against same-sex marriage. However, in this week's bulletin, his argument is rooted in a secular analysis provided by the Hoover Insititution, a well-known and biased political organization. Indeed, many of the arguments against same-sex marriage seem to reflect Father Malloy's conservative politics more than any of Christ's teachings.

Thus far, the Church's pronouncements on homosexuality have been light on reference to scripture. Jesus spoke forcefully and often about love, but the Gospel says almost nothing about homosexuality. The arguments against homosexuality, based on the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, seem tenuous at best, but communications from the Church have thus far done little to support what she has advocated.

Sam

 

Fr. Malloy responds:

Dear Sam:

I am sorry to think my observations have made you believe that I reflect politics rather than Christ's teachings. "My politics," St. John Bosco said, "are the 'Our Father.'" I would like to think mine are the same.

If you are an informed Catholic, I don't know how you can claim that the Church has done little to support what she has advocated. Homosexual acts are evil.

Let me quote some passages beyond Sodom and Gomorrah. Romans Chapter One (20-28): "Ever since the creation of the world, his eternal attributes of eternal power have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they have no excuse... While claiming to be wise, they became fools...Therefore, God handed them over to degrading perversions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another, and thus received in their own persons the dire penalty for their perversity."

Look up also 1Timothy 1:8-10. & 1Cor. 6:10

Seems to me Scripture is very clear in its condemnation of such acts that you seem to call love. And it you are Catholic, you know that our doctrines are based on Scripture AND tradition. "There are many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world could contain the books that would be written. (John 21: 25).

Tradition has been very explicit on its condemnation of homosexual acts.

Fr. John Malloy

 


Our second person with a question on this matter asked:

Hi Fathers,

I have received 16+ years of formal Catholic education and have consistently always been taught to live by the Beatitudes and to live as closely as possible as Jesus would today. My Catholic education has always taught me that it is a sin to discriminate against anyone for any reason, including gender. I married my Husband in SS Peter and Paul church and believe that Jesus would also want anyone who loved another to have that same right, regardless of their gender. Please explain how your stance against same-sex marriage is in in keeping with these teachings as I cannot reconcile the two? Specifically, what is this alleged "danger" that same-sex marriages pose to straight families? I pray, as do many others, that the Catholic church will someday allow same-sex marriages in church. I know many Catholics would support and be proud of a decision by the Catholic Church to allow same-sex marriages in church.

We Respond:

Thank you for your letter. Your sincerity is apparent, but your understanding of Catholicism is deeply flawed. You write: "My Catholic education has always taught me that it is a sin to discriminate against anyone for any reason, including gender."

No, your Catholic education has not taught you that, could not have taught you that, because the Church has never taken that position. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, canon 2358, which speaks of people with homosexual tendencies says: "They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided." But the phrase, "unjust discrimination" would not be used if the Church did not teach that there is such a thing as "just discrimination." There are many examples of just discrimination that we all encounter in our everyday lives. I can't play centerfield for the Giants. If I tried out, I would not get the job. I would not get the job because the Giants management practices discrimination. They discriminate on the basis of age and ability. God himself discriminated, not unjustly, when he created the human species in two halves, male and female. When God created the human species in two distinct halves, He was creating marriage at the same time, because those two halves had to come together for there to be the creation of a new life. That can only happen with people of the opposite sex. Ask yourself: would the institution of marriage ever have existed if we as a species were of only one gender?

You also say "I married my husband in SS. Peter and Paul Church and believe that Jesus would also want anyone who loved another to have that right, regardless of their gender." Well, what about fathers and daughters? Undoubtedly, many fathers and daughters love one another. By your reasoning, they, too, would have the right to marry.

Further, you say: "Please explain how your stance against same-sex marriage is in keeping with these teachings (the two sentences cited above) as I cannot reconcile the two." You are correct. Our position against same-sex "marriage," which is the Church's position, is not reconcilable with the "teachings" you have cited, for the simple reason that those "teachings" are not, and have never been, the teaching of the Church.

Your final point is: "Specifically, what is this alleged "danger" that same-sex marriages pose to straight families?"

The breakdown of marriage is tragic and well-documented. The same point you raise was raised when divorces were made easier to obtain. Then it was said that easier-to-obtain divorce would only affect those couples whose marriages were not worth saving anyway. But that's not what happened. "No-fault" divorce helped to create a societal atmosphere where the seriousness of marriage was undermined, and hence people were more willing to follow their impulses rather than maintain their commitments in spite of difficulties. Marriage had ceased to be seen as the most special of all human relationships, and was seen as just one other living "arrangement." The statistics are irrefutable; please check out the following link: www.divorcereform.org/why.html

Where same sex "marriage" has been allowed, the dissolution of marriage is even more frightening. Sixty percent of first-born children in Denmark, where same-sex "marriage" is allowed, are born out of wedlock, and this rate has increased with the onset of same-sex "marriage." Please go to the following link for more information: www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/003/660zypwj.asp

In short, any action or argument that refuses to see marriage between a man and a woman as an absolutely special and unique institution, with an absolutely special and unique function, has tended to weaken that institution. This is because marriage is in fact a lifetime commitment that also, in a way, restricts ones individuality and requires that each spouse subordinate their personality to the marriage itself. That will always be a hard sell; especially so in our current individualistic culture. Our culture wants the freedom of the single life while having the security of marriage. That's not possible. So it tries to find a way out of the dilemma by redefining one of the terms: marriage. That is also not possible. But the attempted redefinitions have drastically weakened marriage, (again, check the statistics) and the greatest amount of the suffering caused is borne by children who have not grown up with the families they deserve, and which God wanted them to have.


 

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