Understanding Catholic Teachings

There are several Catholic teachings which today might seem a little controversial, although perhaps that says less about Catholicism than it does about modernity. Read on to learn more about why the Church holds these teachings and what they mean for Catholics.


One of the differences between Christianity and other beliefs is that Christians are not allowed to get a divorce. By a divorce, we mean the dissolution of an existing marriage. This is different from an annulment, which is a finding by a Church tribunal that no valid marriage ever existed, for various reasons.

The basis for this is Scriptural and descended from the traditions of the Church. Jesus forbade divorce, decreeing that husband and wife are “no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6). St. Paul supports this.

“To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) – and that the husband should not divorce his wife” (1 Cor. 7:10-11).

If Catholics seek a divorce in the secular courts and remarry afterwards, this is considered adultery. Jesus was very clear on the subject. “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery” (Luke 16:18; cf. Mark 10:6-8). And St. Paul, again, confirms this.

A married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives; but if her husband dies she is discharged from the law concerning the husband. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress (Rom. 7:2-3).

Besides Scripture, there are good reasons for the Catholic insistence on the indissolubility of marriage. We are taught that marriage is the foundation of the family, and the family is the foundation of every human society. As such, a threat to marriage threatens the very fabric of society itself.

The facts

But is there evidence to support this concept? As it turns out, yes, there is.

Single parent families often experience greater economic concerns regarding the ability to provide materially for children. Single parent families are disproportionately poor, overall, 28% of families with children and a female head-of-household and no husband and 13% of families with children and a male head-of-household and no wife lived below the poverty level in 2005 (US Bureau of the Census, 2002). Research shows that children reared in single parent families do not fare as well as children reared in two parent families, on average, regardless of race, education, or parental remarriage (McLanahan and Sandefur, 1994); they are more likely to experience increased academic difficulties and higher levels of emotional, psychological, and behavioural problems (Hanson et al, 1997; Previti and Amato, 2003).

In one study, reported in The Lancet, European researchers found the risk of suicide was more than twice as high among children in one-parent households compared with those living with both parents. Drug addiction and criminality also tend to be higher among the children of single parent families.

It may seem self apparent but two parents are better than one, abusive situations aside.

As the Catechism states, divorce “claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death” (CCC 2384), and human societies simply cannot flourish where marriages are broken and families shattered. The disorder of divorce “brings grave harm to the deserted spouse and to children traumatised by the separation of their parents and often torn between them.”

As mentioned above, in certain situations – where one individual presents a grave physical , mental or spiritual risk to the other – separation can be an acceptable solution, that is the “separation of spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases”.

Likewise civil divorce may be “tolerated” under certain circumstances, only if there is no other possible way to secure legal/financial rights or care of the children (CCC 2383). Keep in mind that “tolerance” of a civil divorce does not touch the true bond of the marriage, which stands intact between the spouses and in the sight of God.

Communion for the remarried

Since divorce and remarriage are not considered valid or licit by the Church, those in such relationships are denied communion during Mass. This is because only those free from mortal sin, or deliberate, grave sin can partake of the Eucharist, on pain of incurring Divine anger.

"Whosoever, therefore, eats this bread and drinks the chalice of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the chalice. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself" (1 Cor 11:27-29).

Those in such unfortunate circumstances remain, however, the children of God. Christ shed his blood for them. They are not prohibited from following a path of humble prayer. They are obligated to fulfil their religious and material duties towards their children, ensuring that they are launched on the path of Christian life.

They can and should read the Holy Scripture. They are not forbidden to attend Holy Mass. They can always approach a priest for advice and they can open their conscience to him in an act of humility, which the Lord will see as the beginning of reconciliation, even if not yet complete.

They may not, however, demand that the Church, or other members of the faithful, regard their unions as lawful and consonant with the Will of God.

There are cases in which the Church can examine the validity of the first marriage and, if such can be declared invalid, it becomes possible to convalidate the second union which, in fact, would be the first true marriage.


Nothing in this section is intended to be harmful to persons – be assured of it, you are beloved by God. It is meant to relate and explain the teachings of the Church on homosexuality in clear and unambiguous terms.

One of the first questions many people ask about the position of the Church on homosexuality is, why does the Church seem so fixated on the subject?

The answer is that the Church is no more fixated on homosexuality than it is fixated on the equally sinful natures of activities like adultery and sex out of wedlock. However there are no university departments dedicated to normalising adultery, no theses written to expand upon the subject of adultery, no government departments and legislation dedicated to adulterers, no marches or festivals celebrating adultery and no high net worth individuals willing to pour cash upon a press only too happy to receive it in order to promote the cause of adultery.

The Church simply responds most often to the loudest and most frequently heard voices.

Church teachings on homosexuality can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

2357 tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. Under no circumstance can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.

2359 By virtues of self-mastery that teach them [persons with same-sex attraction] inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

In 1975, the Vatican published its Declaration on Sexual Ethics, whose pivotal paragraphs on homosexuality are as follows:

Some people conclude that their [homosexual] tendency is so natural that it justifies in their case homosexual relations within a sincere communion of life and love analogous to marriage, insofar as such homosexuals feel incapable of enduring a solitary life.

In the pastoral field, these homosexuals must certainly be treated with understanding and sustained in the hope of overcoming their personal difficulties and their inability to fit into society. This culpability will be judged with prudence. But no pastoral method can be employed which would give moral justification to these acts on the grounds that they would be consonant with the condition of such people.

For according to the objective moral order, homosexual relations are acts which lack an essential and indispensable finality. In Sacred Scripture they are condemned as serious depravity and even presented as the sad consequence of rejecting God. This judgment of Scripture does not of course permit us to conclude that all those who suffer from this anomaly are personally responsible for it, but it does attest to the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and can in no case be approved of.

So while homosexual persons are always to be treated with charity and kindness, we may never encourage or support homosexual actions. It would be tantamount to saying that the Church has been teaching a false sexual morality for two thousand years, which is the same as saying that Catholicism is a false religion.

The Church makes a clear and firm distinction between the person and their inclinations, and this is a distinction which is reflected in the language of its teachings. One should be less referred to as “gay” and more as an individual with homosexual inclinations, given the individual is seen as much more than their sexuality.

Some believe the Church teaches that to feel desire is no sin, but it remains something which we must all struggle to suppress when it might lead to sinful activity, whatever our situation in life.

Scriptural foundations and support for this teaching from the early Fathers of the Church can be found in abundance. Passages such as Leviticus 18:22–30, Romans 1:26–27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, and Jude 7 serve as ample proof that Scripture condemns homosexuality, and these passages do not refer to “male prostitutes”. The Fathers were especially opposed to pederasty, which is the homosexual abuse of boys by men.

There are further reasons for the teachings of the Church, based upon Christian theology and philosophical reasoning. The first is the nature of homosexual activity, which has been described as unnatural. This does not mean such things cannot be found in “nature” among the wild beasts, for they can, along with all manner of other practices, if we were to take the denizens of the wilderness for our guides.

“Natural” in this case means “according to its nature”. A chair is meant to be sat upon, that is the nature of a chair. If we try to use it as a teapot or a curtain, the chair is unlikely to be of much use, and will probably damage the chair, since such use is against its nature. In the same way, homosexual activity is considered to be against the nature of human sexuality and the use of human sex organs – it’s not really what they were meant for.

There are also concerns about the potential for illness and damage to the body which recent events have borne out. These are not just modern occurrences, even the Scriptures speak of them.

How many children did Oscar Wilde have?

Another common misconception about homosexual activity is the idea that those with such inclinations are born with them. There is very little scientific evidence to support this assertion, and it’s unlikely there ever will be.

But even if there were, and to the extent that other biological factors might be at play, is someone born an alcoholic or do they become alcoholics as a result of environmental factors combined with certain tendencies? In neither case is conscious choice or volition a large factor, and in neither case is the outcome ordained inevitably from birth.

So it’s not as simple as suggesting a dichotomy between being born a homosexual and choosing that as a lifestyle. Further factors emerging from recent research indicate that people who later identify as homosexual are far more likely to have gotten pregnant or gotten someone else pregnant as teenagers than their peers. This points directly towards what the Church teaches – disordered inclinations.

Also worth considering is modern confusion about the various types of love. Church teachings on these are derived from Classical times, when there were four words for love: eros, storgos, philia, and agape.

Eros means sexual attraction and carnal desire. Storgos is the natural affection one might feel for one’s parents, tribe, or country. Philia is the love of friendship. Agape goes beyond these and is the supreme form of love. It is the love with which we love God, and our children, and the love we should have for those who hate us. If philia is the love of our friends, agape is the love of our enemies.

The answer to the question of how many children famed homosexual icon Oscar Wilde had is two, both sons, the first at age thirty one.

Homosexual Priests

Both Pope Francis and the Pope Emeritus, his predecessor, have made it clear that men with deeply seated homosexual tendencies should not present themselves for the priesthood. In December 2016 the Congregation for the Clergy, with Pope Francis’ approval, reaffirmed that men who live a homosexual lifestyle, have “deep-seated homosexual tendencies,” or support the “so-called ‘gay culture’” cannot be admitted to the ministerial priesthood:

In relation to persons with homosexual tendencies who seek admission to seminary, or discover such a situation in the course of formation, consistent with her own Magisterium, “the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’ Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women. One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies” (The Gift of Priestly Vocation 199).

Priests who support the “so-called ‘gay culture’” mentioned above, up to and including gay marriage, are acting in defiance of Church teachings, just as much as if they had denied the divinity of Jesus or declared that the Bible was a work of fiction. Those who guide their flock away from the teachings of the Church should remove themselves from any pastoral role until they have a better understanding of those teachings.

Transgenderism and Gender Ideology

Catholic teaching on gender identity follows its established teaching on sexuality and marriage.

a) Briefly stated:

b) The Catechism of the Catholic Church (September 1997 edition), Section 2333, states:

Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his or her sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out

c) The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (2004), Section 224, states:

Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his or her sexual identity. Physical, moral and spiritual difference and complementarities are oriented towards the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarities, needs and mutual support between the sexes are lived out. According to this perspective, it is obligatory that positive law be conformed to the natural law, according to which sexual identity is indispensable, because it is the objective condition for forming a couple in marriage.

d) Address by Pope Benedict XVI to the Curia, Thursday December 12, 2012:

The profound falsehood of this (gender identity) theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, which serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves. According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God.

e) On the issue of gender theory and transgenderism, Pope Francis has been unequivocal, comparing it to nuclear weapons. 

In 2016, Pope Francis criticised gender theory as ‘ideological colonisation’ and called it a sin against the Creator God.

There is no doubt that the Church, while sympathetic to those who have this condition, does not condone any move that would attempt to alter the person’s body to represent the opposite gender, although it would recognise counselling therapies that try to alleviate the dysphoria or distress.


It is important to establish from the outset that the Catholic Church does not oppose medical procedures to save the life of a mother which may also have the associated effect of ending the life of an unborn child.

This is known as the principle of double effect, which requires that four conditions be met if the action in question is to be morally permissible: first, that the action contemplated be in itself either morally good or morally indifferent; second, that the bad result not be directly intended; third, that the good result not be a direct causal result of the bad result; and fourth, that the good result be "proportionate to" the bad result.

Where all of these conditions are met, the action under consideration is morally permissible despite the bad result.

There is no support for abortion in Scripture. The New Testament doesn’t explicitly forbid abortion but the Church does not rely solely upon Scripture for guidance, and even if it did there are numerous Old Testament laws which forbid abortion. The New Testament also doesn’t forbid drunk driving – just because it’s not explicitly mentioned doesn’t mean it’s not covered. The teachings of the Church on abortion from the Catechism are as follows:

2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life. 72
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you. 73
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth. 74
2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:
You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish. 75
God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes. 76
2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae ," 77 "by the very commission of the offense," 78 and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law. 79 The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.
2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation :
"The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being's right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death." 80
"The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child's rights." 81
2274 Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.
Prenatal diagnosis is morally licit, "if it respects the life and integrity of the embryo and the human fetus and is directed toward its safe guarding or healing as an individual. . . . It is gravely opposed to the moral law when this is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion, depending upon the results: a diagnosis must not be the equivalent of a death sentence." 82
2275 "One must hold as licit procedures carried out on the human embryo which respect the life and integrity of the embryo and do not involve disproportionate risks for it, but are directed toward its healing the improvement of its condition of health, or its individual survival." 83
"It is immoral to produce human embryos intended for exploitation as disposable biological material." 84
"Certain attempts to influence chromosomic or genetic inheritance are not therapeutic but are aimed at producing human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities. Such manipulations are contrary to the personal dignity of the human being and his integrity and identity" 85 which are unique and unrepeatable.

72 Cf. CDF, Donum vitae I,1.
73 Jer 1:5; cf. Job 10:8-12; Ps 22:10-11.
74 Ps 139:15.
75 Didache 2,2:SCh 248,148; cf. Ep. Barnabae 19,5:PG 2 777; Ad Diognetum 5,6:PG 2,1173; Tertullian, Apol . 9:PL 1,319-320.
76 GS 51 § 3.
77 CIC, can. 1398.
78 CIC, can. 1314.
79 Cf. CIC, cann. 1323-1324.
80 CDF, Donum vitae III.
81 CDF, Donum vitae III.
82 CDF, Donum vitae I,2.
83 CDF, Donum vitae I,3.
84 CDF, Donum vitae I,5.
85 CDF, Donum vitae I,6.

As with all Catholic teachings of course there are solid scientific reasons to oppose abortion, a few of which are given in this article and many other places.

“Perhaps the greatest misconception the pro-choice movement perpetuates is that the fetus is part of the mother’s body. Yes, the fetus is physically inside the mother, that is undeniable, but it does not make it a part of her body.

In reality, a fetus is a unique individual temporarily residing inside the mother. The fetus has its own unique DNA, and sometimes even has a different sex and/or race than the mother. If one were to claim the fetus was part of the mother, they would have to argue that, for the nine months of pregnancy, part of the mother’s body has a completely different DNA—and in some cases different sex and race—than the rest of the body.

This is ludicrous, nobody pretends to claim the second after birth that the fetus is in any way part of the mother, yet because it resides within the mother that suddenly makes it a part of the mother’s body, no different than an organ. The best proof of the fetus being a separate person, however, is the case of Rh Disease, in which the antibodies of an Rh- mother target an Rh+ fetus as a foreign organism. If the fetus were really part of the mother’s body, this would not occur.

The argument that the fetus is not human is equally fallacious. The fetus—per its DNA—is of the species Homo sapiens, and left to its own devices, a fetus will grow into a full-fledged human being. “Fetus” in reality is just a term that marks a stage in human development, from 8 weeks after conception until birth. Just like a toddler or teenager is still a human despite still developing and growing, so too is a fetus.

As for whether a fetus is alive or not, the answer is harder to ascertain. Currently, there is no scientific consensus on when human life begins, and thus legal scholars and others often resort to viability to determine when life begins.

However, this is a flawed definition, mainly because viability is variable and relies as much on the fitness of the organism as the sophistication of the available technology. At the time of Roe v Wade 50 years ago, medical technology could typically support fetuses born around 24 weeks or later. Today, fetuses have been born as early as 21 weeks. The most premature fetus ever was a baby born to Courtney Stensrud at just 21 weeks and 4 days of gestation.

...the case goes to show that viability is variable, and thus not a good measure of life. So, what is a good indicator of life? The answer: brain and heart activity. As stated by the Uniform Determination of Death Act (adopted by all 50 states), “an individual is considered dead when they have sustained either 1) irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions or 2) irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brainstem.”

This is what is used by all hospitals to determine whether or not a patient is alive, so why should it be any different for a fetus? Once a fetus has a beating heart and working brain, it is irrefutably alive.”

Savita Halappanavar

Savita Halappanavar tragically lost her life in Galway University Hospital following a miscarriage. An autopsy showed her death was caused by an antibiotic resistant strain of E-Coli. Medical experts state that nothing in Ireland's pro-life laws would have prevented Savita from receiving any life-treatments she required.

Three separate investigations found that the cause of death was sepsis; one inquiry listed thirteen missed opportunities which might have saved Savita’s life, and said that there was a failure at times to provide basic care.

In an astonishing interview with Kitty Holland, the Irish Times journalist who broke the story of Savita Halappananvar's tragic death, now says that the story may be 'muddled'.

This was an extraordinary admittance given the global hysteria raised by the sensationalist reporting of Savita's death by the Irish Times..

In the interview with the Coleman at Large programme, Kitty Holland was firstly asked why she wrote in a later article in the Observer that "the fact that Savita had been refused a termination was a factor in her death has yet to be established" when she omitted that caution from the Irish Times story that first broke the story of Savita's death to the world.

Despite all the frenzied media reporting, there is no evidence that a 'Catholic ethos' interfered with the treatment required by Savita in Galway University Hospital. The Minister for Health has confirmed that no such evidence existed.

Claims that a 'Catholic ethos' negatively influenced the treatment undertaken for Ms Halappanavar have been denied by the Minister for Health James Reilly and by staff and users of the Galway University Hospital.

The Irish Times reported that “As the controversy around the death of Savita Halappanavar continued, sources close to the hospital stressed that not only was there “no particular ethos” at the hospital but it was very well resourced with a high level of specialist care.

“Medical sources similarly downplayed any suggestion of a particular religious ethos at the hospital.”

Leaked emails show that abortion campaigners plotted to use Savita’s death to push for abortion in Ireland.

Secret email conversations between abortion campaigners were discovered by the Life Institute. They showed that the deplorable exploitation of Savita’s tragic death was planned and organised.

Those emails showed that the Irish Choice Network knew the story was going to break, days and perhaps weeks before details of Savita's death was published on November 14th. They had been tipped off that a controversy was about to arise, and they planned to use it to campaign for abortion.

The email told ICN members that “a major news story in relation to abortion access is going to break in the media early this coming week,” and they should meet to plan to use the case to ‘proceed’ with a push for abortion.

The Sunday Independent reported that among those who responded to that email was Alison Spillane – co-ordinator of the Irish Feminist Network and a political researcher in the Oireachtas, currently working in the Leinster House office of Deputy Mick Wallace.

Another member of the ICN Google discussion group who responded to the email was Stephanie Lord, a political advisor to Sinn Fein.

With thanks to Gript and the Life Institute.


While the Church does not allow contraception, that is for example the use of condoms, cervical caps, diaphragms, IUDs, or chemicals such as the pill, the patch, and injectibles like Depo Provera, it does offer a path to family planning through the process of Natural Family Planning.

A married couple can engage in marital intimacy during the naturally infertile times in a woman’s cycle, or after child-bearing years, without violating the meaning of marital intercourse in any way.

This is the principle behind natural family planning (NFP). Natural methods of family planning involve fertility education that enables couples to cooperate with the body as God designed it, and underlines the understanding of the Church that intercourse is not only for procreative but unitive purposes within a marriage.

The Church is opposed to contraception for theological reasons – part of God’s gift to husband and wife is this ability in and through their love to cooperate with God’s creative power. Therefore, the mutual gift of fertility is an integral part of the bonding power of marital intercourse. That power to create a new life with God is at the heart of what spouses share with each other.

Contraception is also opposed for pragmatic reasons – there is no one hundred percent certain form of contraception, so it can be assumed there is always a chance of pregnancy whenever intercourse takes place within the natural fertility cycles. This in turn can lead to abortion where the pregnancy was unexpected or unwanted, as is assumed when contraception is used.

Contraception should not be considered part of preventive health care because pregnancy is not a disease. Some forms of contraception act as abortifacients themselves, while others pose a risk to the well being and health of women. They can also lead to a sense of false confidence in that they will not prevent the transmission of serious diseases.

Condoms offer almost no protection against the epidemic of incurable viral STDs, such as genital herpes and human papilloma virus (HPV), strains of which cause genital warts and virtually all cases of cervical cancer. Numerous studies have found that typical condom use offers inadequate or little protection against even bacterial STDs, such as Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and syphilis.

Hormonal contraceptives themselves have inherent health risks. Synthetic hormones powerful enough to disrupt a woman’s reproductive system may affect every major system of her body. Depending on the type and strength of the hormonal contraceptive, over five percent of women experience some of the following symptoms: headaches, weight gain, acne, mood swings, depression, anxiety, breast pain, dizziness, severe pain during menses, a range of bleeding problems, and a lack of desire for sex. In the case of Depo-Provera, there can also be a 5-6% loss of bone mineral density after five years’ use, which is only partially reversed in the years after discontinuation.

Among the less common side effects of hormonal contraceptives are the following: blood clots in the veins, lungs, heart, and brain, potentially causing heart attack and strokes; breast cancer; potentially life-threatening ectopic pregnancy (in which the embryo most often implants in the narrow tube between the ovary and womb); liver tumours; and ovarian cysts.

The link between hormonal contraceptives and breast cancer has been known for over thirty years. The World Health Organization has classified synthetic estrogen and progestin in contraceptives as carcinogenic to humans. According to a major meta-analysis, women who use oral contraceptives before age 20 have a 1.95% elevated risk of developing breast cancer.

With thanks to Sacred Heart Winchester and further information can be found here.

Sex Before Marriage

We are all called to various forms of chastity depending on our position in life. Married couples are called to the chastity of marriage, the clergy are called to a different form of chastity, and those who have not yet been married have another type of chastity.

The Catholic Church continues to teach that sexual love between a man and woman is reserved to marriage. We find this teaching in the creation account of Genesis– Book 1, Chapter 1 of Sacred Scripture: First, God creates man in His own image and likeness, making them male and female (Genesis 1:27).

In the next verse, the Bible reads, “God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it'” (Genesis 1:28). Before the man and woman come together as husband and wife, and before they express their love as husband and wife, they are first blessed by God.

Only in marriage do we find God’s blessing upon the act of sexual love, or what is better termed marital love. This physical expression of love in marriage is a sacred sign of a husband and wife’s covenant of life and love that they share in union with God. This marital love signifies the vows freely exchanged between each other and thereby reflects the faithful, permanent, exclusive, and self-giving love they have promised to each other and to God. This understanding is evident in Jesus’ response to the Pharisees’ question regarding divorce: “Have you not read that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female and declared, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife, and the two shall become as one’?

Thus they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore let no man separate what God has joined” (Matthew 19:4-6). Through the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, God blesses the couple joined in this sacred bond and generously bestows grace so that they may assume the duties of marriage in mutual and lasting fidelity.

Chastity respects the dignity of our human sexuality and the sacredness of marital love. In chastity, a person strives for mastery over feelings and passions, respects the sacredness of marital love, and takes responsibility for their actions.

And what practical, tangible benefits are derived from abstaining from sex before marriage? There are quite a few – one becomes immune to every sexually transmitted disease, to crisis pregnancies and to potential problems arising from misunderstandings, among many other benefits.

It gives great freedom – freedom from slavery to passions, freedom from loss of a good reputation, freedom from painful memories or the regrets of past relationships.

There are a whole array of quite serious and permanently life-changing difficulties that can be avoided by simply listening to what the Church has to say about chastity and sex before marriage.

With thanks to Catholic Straight Answers for sections of this piece.

Ordination of Women

Can women be ordained to the priesthood? This is a question that provokes much debate in our modern world, but it is one to which the Church has always answered “No.” The basis for the Church’s teaching on ordination is found in the New Testament as well as in the writings of the Church Fathers.

The teaching of the Catholic Church on ordination, as expressed in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, is that only a Catholic male validly receives ordination, and "that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful." In other words, the male priesthood is not considered by the church a matter of policy but an unalterable requirement of God. As with priests and bishops, the church ordains only men as deacons.

Theologically, since Jesus was a man, and priests act in persona Christi, it is impossible for a woman to become a priest. None of the apostles chosen by Jesus were women either.

The Fathers rejected women’s ordination, not because it was incompatible with Christian culture, but because it was incompatible with Christian faith. Thus, together with Biblical declarations, the teaching of the Fathers on this issue formed the tradition of the Church that taught that priestly ordination was reserved to men. This teaching has not changed.

Further, in 1994 Pope John Paul II formally declared that the Church does not have the power to ordain women. He stated, “Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.

“Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Luke 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful” (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis 4).

And in 1995 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in conjunction with the pope, ruled that this teaching “requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium 25:2)” (Response of Oct. 25, 1995).

Pope Francis has most recently confirmed that it is not possible for women to be ordained to the priesthood.

It should also be remembered that there are many others who are almost always disqualified from holding the office of the priesthood – married men, anyone with children, those with inordinate debts, those with deeply seated homosexual inclinations and so on. These issues are called impediments and some are listed here:

With thanks to Catholic.com.

Clerical Celibacy

Another controversial issue is priestly celibacy. Western Catholic priests are celibate as a matter of discipline, not dogma or doctrine. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that even today celibacy is not the rule for all Catholic priests. For Eastern Rite Catholics, married priests are the norm, just as they are for Orthodox and Oriental Christians.

Even in the Eastern churches, though, there have always been some restrictions on marriage and ordination. Although married men may become priests, unmarried priests may not marry; and married priests, if widowed, may not remarry. Moreover, there is an ancient Eastern discipline of choosing bishops from the ranks of the celibate monks, so their bishops are all unmarried.

The tradition in the Western or Latin-Rite Church has been for priests as well as bishops to take vows of celibacy, a rule that has been firmly in place since the early Middle Ages. Even today, though, exceptions are made. For example, there are married Latin-Rite priests who are converts from Lutheranism and Episcopalianism.

The concept of celibate priests is Scriptural in origin. Paul suggests celibacy is preferable to marriage: “Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage... The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband” (1 Cor 7:27-34).

Celibacy is neither unnatural nor unbiblical. “Be fruitful and multiply” is not binding upon every individual; rather, it is a general precept for the human race. Otherwise, every unmarried man and woman of marrying age would be in a state of sin by remaining single, and Jesus and Paul would be guilty of advocating sin as well as committing it.

With thanks to Catholic.com.

Religious Freedom

The right to religious freedom within Catholicism means that nobody should be forced to endorse or practise a religion against their will, which has been the constant teaching of the Church from the beginning. It does not imply an acceptance of the legitimacy of other forms of religion.

Judge Not

One of the most commonly abused pieces of Scripture is the warning to “judge not, lest ye be judged”, almost invariably hurled by people trying to legitimise actions which run contrary to not only the teachings of the Church, but any reasonable sense of morality.

Taken in context:

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (Matt. 7:1-5).

Jesus was not telling his disciples they could not ever judge the behaviour of others. Rather, he was cautioning them to live righteous lives themselves so their judgment of others’ behaviour would not be rash judgment.

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” By itself, this statement could be construed to mean that one may escape even God’s judgment simply by not judging the behaviour of others. But everyone is judged by God, so this cannot be a proper understanding. Jesus goes on to reformulate his statement in a positive way: “With the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” Jesus indeed expects his disciples to judge, but he warns that they will be judged in a like manner.

In the next two lines, Jesus cautions against hypocrisy: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?”

In short, this and other statements are warnings not to be hypocrites and to not live in such a state that your judgements may be suspect. Catholics are not only allowed to judge, they are required to judge as a matter of right conscience, especially when wolves go after the weakest of the flock. Not to judge correctly can be seen as putting a stumbling block before others.

When heresy was running rampant in the Church, the Saints didn’t sit back quietly in the name of withholding judgment, but rather fought the heresy with charity and zeal. There are times when righteous judgement is needed. But judging a sin corporately speaking is different than judging the heart of your brother and condemning him, in the judgement of individuals charity must always be the first consideration.

St Thomas Aquinas developed a sophisticated account of rash judgement. He teaches that as human beings we are only able to judge what we can perceive. So we can see our neighbor's exterior actions. Our neighbor's action might be a sin, and so we can judge that that act was a sin, or was wrong. But we should not presume to judge what we can't see, the interior movement of the heart.

"Man sees what appears, but the Lord beholds the heart (1 Sam. 16:7), for to God alone is reserved the judgement of hidden things, among which are especially counted the thoughts of the heart, and hence if anyone would presume to judge of these things, it is a rash judgement."

“Fire and water do not mix, neither can you mix judgment of others with the desire to repent. If a man commits a sin before you at the very moment of his death, pass no judgment, because the judgment of God is hidden from men. It has happened that men have sinned greatly in the open but have done greater deeds in secret, so that those who would disparage them have been fooled, with smoke instead of sunlight in their eyes.” – St. John Climacus

“Believe that others are better than you in the depths of their soul, although outwardly you may appear better than they.” – St. Augustine

“If you see your neighbour in sin, don’t look only at this, but also think about what he has done or does that is good, and infrequently trying this in general, while not partially judging, you will find that he is better than you.” – St. Basil the Great

“Those who look well after their own consciences rarely fall into the sin of judging others.” – St. Francis de Sales

“Support and excuse your neighbour with great generosity of heart.” – St. Francs de Sales

“Do not criticise! To speak only of the faults of others does not represent total reality, for every man, in addition to his faults, also has virtues, a good side.” – St. Maximilian Kolbe

“Be gentle to all, and stern with yourself.” – St. Teresa of Avila

How readily I used to blame
Some poor young soul that came to shame!
Never found sharp enough words like pins
To stick into other people’s sins
Black as it seemed, I tarred it to boot
And never black enough to suit
Would cross myself, exclaim and preen –
Now I myself am bared to sin!

– Gretchen, in Goethe’s ‘Faust’


Before addressing the issue of euthanasia, we must first remember that the Catholic Church holds as sacred both the dignity of each individual person and the gift of life. Therefore, the following principles are morally binding: First, to make an attempt on the life of or to kill an innocent person is an evil action. Second, each person is bound to lead his life in accord with God's plan and with an openness to His will, looking to life's fulfilment in heaven. Finally, intentionally committing suicide is a murder of oneself and considered a rejection of God's plan. For these reasons, the Second Vatican Council condemned "all offenses against life itself, such as murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and wilful suicide...(Gaudium et Spes, No. 27).

Given these principles, we believe that each person is bound to use ordinary means of caring for personal health. Here one would think of proper nourishment—food and water—and ordinary medical care. Ordinary means would be those which offer reasonable hope of benefit and are not unduly burdensome to either the patient or the family.

A person may, but is not bound to, use extraordinary means—those means which primarily are not considered ordinary medical care. In our world today, however, exactly what constitutes extraordinary medical care becomes harder and harder to define. For instance, accepting an artificial heart is clearly experimental and would be extraordinary; whereas the usage of a respirator or ventilator is oftentimes standard procedure to aid the patient's recovery.

To help navigate through this confusing area of extraordinary means, the focus should be on whether the treatment provides reasonable hope of benefit to the patient and what the degree of burden is to the patient and his family. Factors to consider in making this decision would be the type of treatment, the degree of complexity, the amount of risk involved, its cost and accessibility and the state of the sick person and his resources. One should weigh the proportion of pain and suffering against the amount of good to be done.

Given this notion of health care, we can turn to the subject at hand. Euthanasia, literally translated as "good death" or "easy death," is "an action or omission which of itself or by intention causes death, in order that all suffering may in this way be eliminated" (Declaration on Euthanasia). In other words, euthanasia involves the purposeful termination of life by direct action, such as lethal injection, or by an omission, such as starvation or dehydration. Note that euthanasia is commonly known as "mercy killing"; this term is most appropriate because the act involves an intentional killing, no matter how good the intention may be to alleviate suffering.

However, euthanasia must be distinguished from the stopping of extraordinary means of health care. The patient—or guardian in the case of an unconscious patient—has the right to reject outright or to discontinue those procedures which are extraordinary, do not offer a proportionate good, do not offer reasonable hope of benefit or are simply "heroic." Such a decision is most appropriate when death is clearly imminent. In these cases, the person would place himself in God's hands and prepare to leave this life, while maintaining ordinary means of health care.

With thanks to EWTN.

Answering Epicurus

The Greek philosopher Epicurus once challenged the idea of a God that is both all-powerful and all-good in this way:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

There have been many responses formulated to this supposed trilemma by Catholic theologians, but perhaps the most compelling answer is that Epicurus doesn’t define what he means by “Good”, and so the rest of the question loses meaning.

But in fact he had already defined good elsewhere as “the absence of suffering” and evil as “suffering.” By reducing morality down to the easy categories of "things I like" and "things I don't like," Epicurus made relative morality and a deeply self-interested perspective the root of his ethics. Any athlete or student, or indeed anyone who has ever struggled to achieve anything, can see where he went wrong.

Working within these inadequate definitions of good and bad, Epicurus would have had no way to so much as understand Hebrews 12, which asserts that God, like every good parent, permits His children to suffer – and even causes some suffering – in order to shape their character.

God not only does not fear or flee from pain, He enters into it personally in His incarnation and makes the experience of suffering His own. Seventh century missionary Augustine of Canterbury famously summarised this chapter: “God has one Son without sin but none without suffering.”

Christians define good in terms of God's personal character, and evil as deviation from or corruption of that character. So we use the Greek word amartia, meaning an arrow that misses or falls short of the target, to describe our deviations from God's character: in English, that word is sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

“Evil” in the sense of suffering or calamity isn't the polar opposite of goodness or to God, as we see in for example Exodus 32:14 – And the Lord relented from the evil which he thought to do unto his people.

Isaiah 45:7 – I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.

Lamentations 3:38 – Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that evil and good proceed?

If our notions of “good” and “bad”, or “evil” aren't any better than Epicurus' self-serving categories of seeking pleasure instead of pain then it might be fair to say that we're working from a largely animal perspective.

There are no easy, satisfactory answers to how God can do things that cause suffering and don't result in apparent good. Yet by God's explicit self-revelation in Christ there is every reason to trust Him when He asserts that it all things work for good to those who love Him, and a time is coming for the restoration of all things.

God's promises and kingdom are not about this handful of decades between our birth and bodily death. His purposes run on an infinitely longer timeframe, and will not be completed in us before we all pass from this life.

Another response is offered in Plantinga's free-will defence, which begins by noting a distinction between moral evil and physical evil, and then asserts that counterarguments fail to establish an explicit logical contradiction between God and the existence of moral evil.

In other words Plantinga shows that the elements of the trilemma are not on their own contradictory, and that any contradiction must originate from an atheologian's implicit unstated assumptions, assumptions representing premises not stated in the argument itself.

Plantinga pointed out that God, though omnipotent, could not be expected to do literally anything. God could not, for example, create square circles, act contrary to his nature, or, more relevantly, create beings with free will that would never choose evil.

Taking this latter point further, Plantinga argued that the moral value of human free will is a credible offsetting justification that God could have as a morally justified reason for permitting the existence of evil

Plantinga did not claim to have shown that the conclusion of the logical problem is wrong, nor did he assert that God's reason for allowing evil is, in fact, to preserve free will. Instead, his argument sought only to show that the logical problem of evil was invalid.

The Irenaean theodicy is a Christian theodicy (a response to the problem of evil). It defends the probability of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent (all-powerful and perfectly loving) God in the face of evidence of evil in the world. Numerous variations of theodicy have been proposed which all maintain that, while evil exists, God is either not responsible for creating evil, or he is not guilty for creating evil.

Typically, the Irenaean theodicy asserts that the world is the best of all possible worlds because it allows humans to fully develop. Most versions of the Irenaean theodicy propose that creation is incomplete, as humans are not yet fully developed, and experiencing evil and suffering is necessary for such development.

Second-century theologian and philosopher Irenaeus, after whom the theodicy is named, proposed a two-stage creation process in which humans require free will and the experience of evil to develop. Another early Christian theologian, Origen, presented a response to the problem of evil which cast the world as a schoolroom or hospital for the soul; theologian Mark Scott has argued that Origen, rather than Irenaeus, ought to be considered the father of this kind of theodicy.

Friedrich Schleiermacher argued in the nineteenth century that God must necessarily create flawlessly, so this world must be the best possible world because it allows God's purposes to be naturally fulfilled. In 1966, philosopher John Hick discussed the similarities of the preceding theodicies, calling them all "Irenaean". He supported the view that creation is incomplete and argued that the world is best placed for the full moral development of humans, as it presents genuine moral choices.

British philosopher Richard Swinburne proposed that, to make a free moral choice, humans must have experience of the consequences of their own actions and that natural evil must exist to provide such choices.

Understanding is the sure and clear knowledge of some invisible thing.

- St. Bernard

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“Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you.

And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made.

You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all.

You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness.

You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you.

You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.”

― St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions


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