Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"You knew full well..."

Have you always wanted to know the “big picture” of the Bible? Discover it this Lent! St. Andrew’s is offering The Great Adventure Video Bible Study on Monday nights from 7-9 pm in the rectory basement. The 24-week series will begin on Monday, March 2, 2009; the cost is $40 per person (including materials). To register or for more information, please call Fr. Greg at 301.649.3700 ext. 314 or email him at gshaffer@adwparish.org.

“For those who know the Church’s teachings on a particular act but believe the teaching is incorrect, do they have ‘full knowledge’ that the act is wrong? …what constitutes ‘full knowledge’ of sin and culpability?”

An excellent question from a blogger. This is one answer I have yet to find exactly. On the one hand, full knowledge could imply a complete awareness of all of the aspects of a particular act. That would be a lot! On the other hand, it could mean that one simply knows fully well that a particular act is wrong. For example, a parent might scold a child for doing something they knew was wrong by saying, “you knew full well that …” The Church’s brief definition of full knowledge is probably closer to the latter viewpoint: “knowledge of the sinful act, of its opposition to God’s law” (CCC, 1859).

The best and simplest answer might be that full knowledge means that you know an act is wrong and that you are committing the act. For example, a married couple learns from the Church (through a homily, article, discussion group, blog site, etc.) that artificial contraception is morally wrong and opposed to God’s law. At that point, they know that is wrong. Assuming that that they know what artificial contraception is and that one spouse isn’t secretly using contraception, they would both know if and when they are doing it. So, they would both have full knowledge.

Now, let’s say that one or both of the spouses says that they don’t believe the act is wrong. They have heard what the Church teaches and said that the Church is wrong. Dangerous ground: they know better than the Church! A good question might be, “do you also disagree with the Church when it says that murder or adultery or stealing is wrong”? They would most likely say no. So, how do they know which teachings of the Church are correct and which ones are incorrect? And, on what authority do they base their position? Their weak and shallow position has no real authority because the Church is the moral authority on Earth, as given by Christ. It’s such dangerous ground to disagree with the Church on matters of faith and morals because it’s the same as disagreeing with Christ.

“My daughter asked me a question that I’m not sure I answered correctly. She learned about the parts of the Mass in school and asked why we need to go to Confession if we have the penitential rite at the beginning of the Mass. In thinking about it, the penitential rite does sound like Confession (minus absolution). We are told to call to mind our sins and ask for God’s forgiveness. I told her that absolution must be granted to be fully reconciled with God, and that’s why we go to Confession- to be reconciled. But I can see how some might think they don’t need confession if they reflect on their sin and ask for forgiveness each Mass. She went on to ask, if people are recalling their sins but not going to Confession, shouldn’t most people there NOT be receiving the Eucharist. I told her to ask her teacher about that one.Adding to my daughter's question, if I remember correctly, in other churches absolution IS granted with the penitential rite, and the church does not say those people will not go to Heaven. If God is going to welcome other non-Catholic Christians and non-Christians into Heaven, and they don’t go to confession, why do I need to?”

Your daughter asks a great question! You did a good job in answering most of it. I would have added something about the value of receiving the counsel of the priest which we don’t get in the Penitential Rite at Mass. That personal advice has helped so many people! Your daughter also gives a tremendous insight which also hints at a big part of the answer to her question. The forgiveness of mortal sins is reserved for the sacrament of Reconciliation, not the Penitential Rite. So, when she suggests that most people should not be receiving Communion without going to Confession first, she hits at a big problem: many Catholics receiving the Eucharist in mortal sin.

Finally, the “absolution” given by the priest to conclude the Penitential Rite at Mass “lacks the efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance” (USCCB).


At 6:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don’t understand the debate over contraception within the Catholic community. What is the argument to justify using artificial contraception that makes it okay rather than only convenient?

There is beauty in what the Church teaches us about our bodies. Sometimes I get a little exasperated with people who look at the Church as unnecessarily restrictive. In listening to others talk about issues of sexuality (premarital sex, artificial contraception, masturbation, adultery, homosexuality, etc), it is suggested that the Church is about repression and suppression. That’s so untrue! The Church teaches about expression- chastity is a positive force. The church teaches of ways for each of us, regardless of marital status, to honor the dignity of ourselves and find creative ways and sharing ourselves with others. Anything that offends that dignity must be viewed as a less than positive force. Those offenses make us less of who we are meant to be and that seems suppressive to me.

At 1:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more, but I'm hearing a female mind behind the words here. If 6:33 pm anon was a man, I'd be surprised. With that preface, where do our men stand on this issue?

I don't think there are many of them out there that would deny the strength testosterone plays in some of their desires and decisions. They too have to choose their allegiance; to their God or their hormones, to the Church's desires or their own. C'mon guys, give us your two cents.

At 4:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do think the debate regarding birth control is long overdue. It’s the thing that we all know people do and stay quiet. Even if we don’t ourselves chose to use it, many of us look at it as benign- ‘cause there’s a part of us that “kind of” understands. That’s the power of ignorance gone unchecked.

The truth- contraceptives have separated having babies from having sex. When that happens, babies are no longer welcome as the good and natural result of sexual intercourse, but are considered an accident, an inconvenience, a burden- even a “punishment,” all to justify abortion to keep a lifestyles going.

In Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, the Court stated, "in some critical respects abortion is of the same character as the decision to use contraception . . . .people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail." The Court clearly stated that the lifestyles created by the use of contraception has necessitated a need for abortion. Abortion is necessary because contraception has enabled us to engage in sexual relationships that are not open to life.

So, while some chose their convenience over their faith, I hope they are at least honest enough to look at the broad consequences those choices have realized.

At 11:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding Confession- I found myself chuckling that I was waiting in line (AGAIN) for Confession. A LINE AT THE CONFESSIONAL! It struck me because, first- it isn’t yet Lent and also because several additional Confession opportunities are available at SAA beyond the Saturday time slot (that alone never used to be too busy). So, why the lines? Seriously- on a Friday morning, I was 6th in line!

Regarding full knowledge- JPII talked about the sense of sin. He talked about conscience, secularism, science and basically reiterated Pious XII’s thoughts that the loss of the sense of sin is the biggest crisis in our society. I think their words perfectly describe what is happening in our world. We’ve become a society that thinks we are accountable to no one above ourselves and that we may (and should) do whatever feels good as long as we can justify it to ourselves. In doing so, we move away from truth-based living. It drives people to believe they know better than the Church.

I think the lines are a sign that a sense of sin is present in our parish. I’ve a suspicion it’s the result of the renewed emphasis on the teachings of the Real Presence. So how do we grow that sense so it reaches others?

At 3:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a lot of beauty in what the church teaches us about our bodies. But society and all its pressures do not let us sometimes understand the purpose of all that beauty. I feel a lot of pressure being the male point of view here. To be very honest my views now are from a lot of growing pains. I have learned the hard way in all of this.
Growing up-sexuality and the church was never addressed. I had always believed that God has given us the knowledge of our bodies and sexuality, and that as long as no one is getting hurt then it is okay to enjoy the gift. That is the testosterone speaking for me when I was a boy going into college. I am older and looking for guidance from God on becoming a true catholic. I feel totally different.

There are a lot of subjects discussed above that I need to look at. The church pushes the subject of sex and all its beauty, and it is beautiful. What is not beautiful is the evils that sex brings out in our society. Look around you, sex is present everywhere in some form. “Sex sells”. It’s to bad something so good has to have a dark side. Only if more people had an interest in Gods teaching like they do in their own sexuality. (that is where I am growing to)

In trying to touch each subject listing in the other post-premarital sex is something that all adults try to instill in their young ones. I might be the exception but again sexuality and the church was not talked about at home or in our catholic schools. I do plan to change that understanding with my own children that it is okay to talk about it, so that they are informed of choices. And which ones are right and wrong.

Contraception is not justified by the Catholic Church, because it is a means to stop the course of a couple to conceive a child and complete their spiritual union. When you introduce a type of barrier contraceptive it is considered wrong. Thus you are breaking the natural law (the book of Genesis). It’s a barrier that shields the spiritual union between you and your spouse. You are preventing the body to do its thing. Is that the same with masturbation, if you are in a union is that something you are doing wrong against your spouse and the church? But then it’s okay to have sex and practice the rhythm method. Very confusing….

Condoms can prevent both the HIV/AIDS epidemic (a fact which the Catholic Church now recognizes after years of denial)

So there is some much gray area that needs to be considered. There is some much in this area that is debatable with all the pressures society and technology put on people that this should be a class and if there is please let me know.

At 5:40 PM, Blogger fran said...

Anon 11:15 - You may be on to something re: emphasis of the Real Presence, and an increase in those receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

I would also say, and maybe you were getting at this as well, that that increase is due to the fact that confession is often brought up in homilies and here on the blog. Recently, the question was raised and answered here, as to why the Penitential Rite is insufficient in terms of a "confession." I think people are hearing that message. I think that they are "getting it," in terms of not being able to handle their sin on their own. They realize they need the grace of God to see real improvement and progress.

Many years ago, our family used to alternate between attending mass at St. Peter's and St. Andrew Apostle. The pastor at St. Peter's also spoke of the sacrament very frequently. Now, if you want to see lines, go there on any given Saturday! So, I think the mere fact that discussing something frequently, keeping it in the forefront of a person's mind, will yield positive results.

Funny story about confession... Our family attended stations on Good Friday at St. Peter's one year and went to confession afterwards. The lines were incredibly long. The church was under renovation, so you had to wind your way through the school hall and into another part of the building. Once you reached a certain point, you were out of view of the others who were still in line or had finished and returned to the hall.

My 2 children chose a line and after a while I could no longer see them. I waited, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, half an hour for them to reappear. Finally, I went to see where they were in line. One had started arguing (in line for confession!) with the other about whether the second line was moving more quickly. So, they got OUT of the line they were in and into the other, which promptly stopped moving! We were there for, I am not kidding, nearly 2 hours!!

At 7:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can anyone explain what a good confession would be for the priest to hear? What is a bad confession for the priest to hear? Is going to confession once a week to often if no mortal sin is present but the penitent is dealing with some serious matters?

At 11:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:15 AM

"So how do we grow that sense so it reaches others?"

Open the lives of others by living the truth the Real Presence teaches.

At 6:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What is a bad confession for the priest to hear?"

I don't understand your concern. Are you asking if there is something you should not confess? Are you worried about wasting the priest's time? There have been times when I've told my confessor that I wasn't sure if something was a matter for the confessional and trusted him to take it from there.

If there is something that is an ongoing struggle in your life- tell your priest.

I'm not sure I know what a "good" confession is versus one that's "okay," but I'd imagine, as with anything else, being good at something requires practice.

At 6:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’m not sure how to ask this w/o being too graphic, but I’ll try. Why does the church frown upon the withdrawal method of birth control? There are no artificial barriers involved. I always wondered about this and then I learned something from Fr. Mike that I did not know regarding artificial insemination that made me question this further. He said that AI may be alright as long as the sperm is collected through licit means. He went on to explain that if a couple were to poke a hole in a condom, they would still be open to life. How is that biologically any different from what happens with the withdrawal method? It is possible that sperm could fertilize an egg with this method too, so wouldn’t a couple using this method also be open to life?

I understand that AI is about creating life while the other is about preventing it, but so is NFP, isn't it? It's one of those "confusing" things I've wondered about.

At 11:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The withdrawal method is called coitus interruptus, and if anyone knows anything it works but there is always sperm present before ejaculation.(The open to life is present) This type of contraception is wrong because it’s a deliberate violation of the design God built into the human race, often referred to as "natural law." The natural law purpose of sex is procreation. The pleasure that sexual intercourse provides is an additional blessing from God, intended to offer the possibility of new life while strengthening the bond of intimacy, respect, and love between husband and wife. What I do not understand is what if you have done your part of procreation within your means? Why put so many rules about your sexual relationship with your spouse? The way I see it now, it is a gift from God that continues to keep the bond and respect for each other alive. And after having the children and the sleepless nights, intimacy with your love one is a healthy thing. Sometimes that bond needs to be strengthen so more.

Trying to stay from being graphic, but the answer of masturbation being wrong or a sin is hard to find. Talking with several priests a definite answer is never available.
• The Bible is silent on the topic.
• None of the Apostolic Fathers wrote about masturbation
But with my current reading it is similar to what is being done with the withdrawal method and interrupting the design of God. And I would think it goes for men and women the same. Priest except it in the confessional but is not saying it is a sin or not.

At 4:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To 11:03-

Therein lays my point. So, is it the intent for outcome that makes one thing okay but not the other- for the biology is the same? When I heard Fr. Mike say what he said, I thought, "Okay then, is it acceptable to use a condom as long and one 'pokes a hole in it'?" I know it sounds ridiculous, but constituency seems important to many.

At 4:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I left out- NFP is a plan to commit acts that are devoid of the possibility of contraception, correct? So, how is withdrawal, effectively, anything different from any other “natural” method?” I can’t imagine anyone would consider coitus interruptus artificial. The intent is the same as with NFP- to have sex w/o contraception. It's a teaching I don't understand.

At 4:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don’t know your age, but I got a mixed message. I went to an all-girl, Catholic school and sexuality was a topic addressed. However, it was addresses from a feminist point of view that talked about being strong and independent. I didn’t understand how I could be strong and independent and still be a woman who needed to be nurtured by a man. So, I think I really grew-up thinking that a man was simply a means to an end.

I went a little beyond the, “as long as no one gets hurt” thinking- mostly b/c I was thinking about myself. I knew being intimate with someone without consequence could lead to one absolute consequence- being hurt. Maybe for men it’s about testosterone and for women it’s about dopamine- I think one addresses the before while the other addresses the after. If so, I’m grateful to be in the “after” hormone receiving category.

At 10:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scanning channels last night, I saw, “How to Make a Good Confession.” There was a point stressed there, one I have heard before. The lector said Confession should be short- it should take only about 5 minutes. The priest will ask us anything he needs to beyond what we’ve said.

On this, I’ve been told that going into detail about a particular sin without being asked is a matter of pride. It was suggested that one say, “I broke the 5th commandment. I did XYZ,” and say nothing more. I was told Confession is not counseling.

I understand and do appreciate points, but ironically, some of the most helpful direction I’ve received has come via counsel in the Confessional. My view- spiritual direction is kind of like counseling on steroids. It’s better, stronger, supernaturally performance-enhanced direction. When received, it’s an added bonus to Confession and helps healing, and it should be in the thoughts of a skilled confessor who acts en persona Christi. On the same note, my personal healing should not be the catalyst to Confession- my love of God should be. I know I should probably be quicker in the confessional (sometimes I feel badly for taking so much time, though the priest is always kind), but I’m not bringing a stopwatch!

A good Confession removes sin and begins healing. The lector used the analogy of a nail imbedded in an object. When the nail is removed, a hole still remains (the nail being guilt). Confession removes the nail and begins to repair the hole. Prayer, Penance and receiving the Eucharist eventually finish whatever remains unrepaired.

Another point was also made and was something I didn’t know-
Baptism removes the stain of Original Sin but also removes the penalty of mortal sin. So, if we were baptized at the end of our lives, we’d go straight to Heaven.

At 7:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding the Bible Study- is this the same series shown on EWTN? I think that was the title to a program I saw very early one morning a few weeks ago. If so- it's a really well done.

At 4:39 PM, Blogger fran said...

I am no authority on birth control, but I do not see how altering an artificial means of contraception can be compared to Natural Family Planning.

An artificial means is still an artificial means, regardless of what you do with it. Natural Family Planning is at ALL times just that - natural! I also, do not believe it can be construed as contraception, as the couple who is practicing it, is open to life at all times - the fertile as well as the infertile periods. To me, the couple who is using altered artificial means of birth control, is in effect preventing, however minimally, possible conception.

For further reading on "Offenses Against Chastity," which may answer other questions here, see Catechism of the Catholic Church [2351]-[2356]
Also "The Love of Husband and Wife"

At 7:13 PM, Blogger fran said...

Well written articles can be found on this site:


Two articles in particular are "Contraceptive Contradictions" July 1, 2007 and "Conundrum with Condoms," June 1, 2006.

At 4:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wasn't trying to compare NFP to contraception in terms of process but outcome. NFP is a natural procees by which one plans to decrease (or, as I did- increase)the odds of having additional children. People use contraception for the same purpose- that's all I meant. I was merely curious about why two things that are biologically similar stand on different moral ground. For me, NFP was effective, so I'm not looking to justify anything.

On a side note, I was talking with a friend who is a pediatric RN. Recently she treated a teenager, who had been taking the Pill, for a embalism. The teen was taking it w/o her parent's knowledge, and her family had a history of this condition. None of the women in their family who had discussed this with their doctors were prescribed the Pill b/c of the risks. The child could have died. Beyond the moral arguements, parents need to be the ones to manage their children's healthcare. It is a matter of life and death.

At 12:57 PM, Blogger fran said...

Anon 4:13

I understand what you are saying and that you are not trying to justify anything. Perhaps you would agree, though, that the process of NFP vs. altered artificial contraception, cannot be separated from the outcome of NFP vs. altered artificial contraception.

The process and the outcome are connected. While, in a sense, the outcome may be similar, a person cannot look away from the fact that the process is very different. And for that reason, the two are morally very different.

I totally agree that parents should be aware and a PART of their children's health care.

At 1:38 PM, Blogger fran said...

Here are some excerpts from one of the articles I mentioned previously, "Contraceptive Contradictions," by Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, National Catholic Bioethics Center.

"Among the deeper reasons behind the teaching,[the Church's position on contraception] the Church stresses especially how contraception forces us to speak a false and contradictory language to our spouse through our body and our sexuality."

"Because sex is a deeply interpersonal form of communication, we can consider some related examples of personal communication to see how the language of our own bodies is violated whenever we engage in contraceptive sex."

"Would it be normal, for example, for a wife to insert earplugs, while trying to listen attentively to, or carry on a conversation with her husband? The earplugs bespeak the view that, "I don't really want to hear you and be with you," and they disrupt the couple's mutual communication.

"If a woman [uses contraception] she is likewise employing a language that says she doesn't really want to communicate openly and fully with her husband. She wants to keep part of who he is at a distance, at arm's length; that is to say, she shuns his fertility and fruitfulness. In that moment, she is rejecting the paternal aspect of his masculinity, and refusing to share with him the deep maternal meaning of her femininity."

"When a husband [uses contraception], he disrupts that intimate communication that is written right into the language of his body, much as if he had wrapped his mouth in cellophane before trying to have a verbal conversation with his wife."

"A person does not put on gloves to touch a beloved one tenderly, unless one thinks that some disease may be communicated. But is pregnancy a disease? And is not the use of [contraceptives] similar to putting on gloves? Do husband and wife really become 'one flesh' if they must arm themselves with protective gear before 'giving' themselves to on another?"

"The problem here is clear: marital sexuality is actually all about loving someone totally and unreservedly, giving and receiving totally, and not holding back who we are for ourselves. It is a unique language of total self-giving."

At 4:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...the process of NFP vs. altered artificial contraception, cannot be separated from the outcome of NFP vs. altered artificial contraception."

this is the very thinking that originated my question. I believed that ALL articfical, even artifical contraception still potentially open to life was wrong. So, I was a little thrown by the idea that the use of a condom could, perhaps, be okay in certain circumstances.

Maybe your excerpts addresed my issue. If the come from is procreation rather than contraception, okay- maybe it- art. insem. via "poking a hole" (that sounds so strange) COULD be okay while the withdrawl method could not. I get it (I think). Maybe not.

At 6:03 PM, Blogger fran said...

Again, I see your line of thinking, anon, but regardless of whether or not a condom is "whole," it remains a barrier in the pro-creative process. With NFP there is never a barrier, as you know, and sex during the infertile period of NFP should not be thought of as a type of barrier either. (not that you are thinking that) Infertile period, fertile period, - the couple remains open to new life at all times.


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