1. Can a marriage between two unbaptized persons be dissolved?

Kevin: Mr. Salza. I hope you haven't grown tired of my questions. I'm reading a book by Fr. Mario P. Romero titled "Unabridged Christianity - Biblical Answers to Common Questions About the Roman Catholic Faith". I'm on the section on annulments and this reminded me of a discussion and debate that a group of us had some time back, but I've never asked someone who would know. I understand the Catholic church requires persons who were married and divorced to acquire an annulment before they can be permitted to remarry. I also understand Jesus' teachings on the subject of marriage. But what our group had trouble with was the following situation:

Say a couple were married at a young age. Neither was Christian and thus both were unsaved. A few years later, their union fell apart into divorce and each went their separate ways. The woman pressured the father to give up all claims to their children so she could give her new husband's name to them. The man, by then destitute and broken decided it was best for his children and so conceded. The couple never spoke again. A year later, the man met a young woman and a year after that they wed. Both were not Christian - not saved. The man and his new wife lived life devoted to one another and had several children together over the course of 12 years and then hearkened to the call of God, turned to the Gospel and sought churches to see which church they could mature in Christ and be baptized in. They contacted the nearby Catholic church, interviewed and were given an application on which one of the questions asked if either had been married and divorced to which they gave an honest answer. Upon submission of the application, they were told an annulment would be required before they could proceed any further.

The man had not so much as spoken with the wife of his youth or their children in fourteen years. To each it was as if they had never been wed. In addition, after becoming a Christian and reading the Bible, the man thought that his former life had been washed away with his sins. The annulment requirement stopped this man in his tracks from continuing to pursue membership in the Catholic church. Our group was divided on this issue.

My question then is this: If an unsaved man marries an unsaved woman and they later divorce and cut all ties in every way, then one or both of them become a saved Christian, being born again, is an annulment really necessary, or is it an unnecessary stumbling block to one coming to a full faith in the Catholic church, especially since that married couple now understand the sacramental nature of marriage before God where the first couple did not? Is the policy of annulment, just that - an inflexible, impersonal policy, or is it individually applicable but more specifically, does it apply in the case of the example our group discussed?

Again, thanks for your gracious and insightful answers.

Seeking the Narrow Gate;

J. Salza: Kevin, a union between two unbaptized persons is not considered a sacramental union. Hence, the union could be dissolved by the Church under certain circumstances, allowing one or both parties to become Catholic and marry in the Church. This is often called the Pauline privilege, which we find in 1 Cor. 7:12-15. Paul says that if one of the persons is baptized after the natural union and the other person leaves the marriage or is threatening to the baptized person's faith, the baptized is free to leave the union. This requires a finding of fact by the diocese. Each case must be evaluated on its own facts and circumstances.

An "annulment" (the proper term is "declaration of nullity") is the way that the Church preserves the sanctity of the sacrament of marriage. She has the power to bind and loose in heaven what she binds and looses on earth. If a sacramental marriage exists, it is indissoluble because what God joins together, nothing can separate. Only death can dissolve a sacramental marriage. I hope that helps.

Kevin: Thanks, that's pretty much what I read in Unabridged Christianity. But to answer your question, the girl was 20, the boy 16. The girl was pregnant and the boy's parents expected him to marry the girl because of the pregnancy, so he did after his 17th birthday. I can't think of any other details.

Thanks again!

2. Can a Catholic marry an unbaptized person?

Melissa: My boyfriend and I are discussing a future marriage WITHIN the Catholic Church. He was married previously and divorced. He is unbaptized, and I am a baptized Catholic. I've read a lot about the Petrine privilege regarding this. The woman he was married to was Catholic. However, they were married outside the church by a Methodist minister. From all that I have researched, the marriage is invalid (not sacramental). However, do we need the Petrine privilege to obtain permission to marry in the church?

I also read that a baptized Christian (myself) and an unbaptized person equals an INVALID marriage. So would I be entering a marriage that is not at all sacramental?? Could OUR marriage be dissolved that easily? I really appreciate your response to this as soon as possible. Thank you and may God be with you.

Sincerely, Melissa

J. Salza: Melissa, a marriage between a Catholic who has not defected from the Church by a formal act and an unbaptized is invalid (CIC 1086(1)). Hence, the first marriage is not recognized by the Church, unless the Church granted them a dispensation to be married. If the marriage was recognized by the Church (called “convalidated”), then your boyfriend is still married and you cannot enter into holy wedlock with him.

If your boyfriend is not married, this rule would still apply to your proposed marriage to this non-baptized gentleman. The Church takes very seriously such a union between a Catholic and an unbaptized person. This impediment is called a "disparity of cult," for which an express dispensation from the Church is required in order to have a valid marriage. See CCC 1635. The dispensation presupposes that both parties know and do not exclude the essential ends and properties of marriage, and the Catholic party confirms the obligations which have been made known to the non-Catholic party, of preserving her faith and ensuring the baptism and education of the children in the Catholic Church. I have a Catholic friend who received a dispensation from the Church to marry a Jewish woman. They are raising their baptized children Catholic.

I would advise that you discuss this with your parish priest who hopefully can give you good counsel on how to proceed. Best wishes and God bless.

3. A dialogue with a homosexual

Thomas: I consider myself to be a Bisexual male. This is a realization that has taken 17 years of my life. All throughout my childhood I have fought and I have prayed that I could change. My faith wavered from Catholic to Southern Baptist and then back to Catholic in hopes that I could find the help that I was sure I needed, but as time moved on I learned that the Bible DOES NOT have any true scripture regarding homosexuality, and the book of the bible that does also says that you should stone to death children that lie. The verses you have put on your site are far from what the Bible says. I reviewed your quotes and compared them to a NIV and KJV Bible. They were not found as they were placed on your site. You are taking the words of God and changing them into a perverse way to convince GLBT people that they are going to Hell. This, my fellow Christian (Yes, I believe that I am one!) is wrong.

J. Salza: Kevin, thanks for writing. First, it is one thing to claim to be a homosexual. It is quite another to claim that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality. It clearly does. Since you evidently attribute some value to what the Bible teaches, you ought to study very carefully its condemnations of homosexual behavior. If you really believe in the Bible, then you fall within its condemnations. St. Paul calls homosexuality shameless, unnatural, and a perversity (Rom 1:27; 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10). The Greek word St. Paul uses for “homosexual” is arsenokoitai (arsen = male; koitus = copulation). The word literally means “men sexual relations,” in other words, men having sex with men. You can’t get much clearer than that. The Old Testament likewise condemned homosexuality (see, for example, Gen. 18:20; 19:5; Lev. 19:22).

My website uses the RSV-CE translation which closely corresponds to the Protestant KJV translation. There is nothing wrong with my translation or analysis. Further, I just checked the NIV and KJV translations that you allude to, and they likewise condemn homosexual behavior in the very same verses that I have on my website.

Thomas: It is especially misleading to say that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was homosexuality. This is the hidden agenda of the church. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah never mentions homosexuality. Their sin was the sin of inhospitality.

J. Salza: Your analysis of Sodom and Gomorrah is common apologetic among the liberal, modernist, pro-homosexual crowd, but it is dead wrong. In fact, the interpretation reveals just how desperate homosexuals have become when exegeting Scripture to escape its explicit condemnations. First, the Genesis narrative never mentions the word “hospitality” anywhere, which is odd if the narrative is actually about hospitality. Note that the “hospitality” apologetic is applied to the foreigners who were pounding on Lot’s door in Genesis 19.

However, Gen. 18:20 reveals that God had already witnessed the city’s sin of homosexuality, even before the alleged event of “inhospitality” occurred in Gen. 19! So the sin could not have been about “hospitality,” since the Scriptures reveal the sin occurred prior to that event. Gen. 19:5 confirms the sin is homosexuality when the strangers at Lot’s door say: “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.” “Relations” is from the Hebrew “yadah” which means “to know” in a sexual context (see, for example, Gen. 4:25, for the same usage between Adam and Eve).

The New Testament writers confirm that Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin was that of homosexuality, which is where we get the word “sodomy.” For example, 2 Peter 2:6-8 describes the acts of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah as “sensual conduct of unprincipled men” and “lawless deeds.” Jude 7 also describes Sodom and Gomorrah as having “indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh.” In fact, Jude in the same verse says that the Sodomites are “suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” for their sins. That is, the Sodomites are in hell for their sin of homosexuality.

Thomas: God made you, me, and everyone else in His image, and you are advocating hatred of what God made. God does not make mistakes, and I hope that you will open your eyes and realize that it is because of you and people like you that people in my community commit suicide. People need a faith, and I hope that the faith the have comes from God and Jesus, but I hope that you will correct the quotes to what they are in the Bible instead of trying to make people feel like they are good for nothing. I know that the Gay community is in need of God, but not for the reasons that you would have us believe. They drug use and multiple sex partners is from a lake of religion and that I give to you, but I believe that if you open your eyes and be fair and teach what is in the Bible (as it says and not some sick interpretation) you will see that the GLBT community will be more in accordance to a good Christian life style. Leave the judging to God. All sins are equal and the act of judging is no worse than homosexuality in God’s eyes (if you believe that homosexuality is a sin). I would really like to hear a response from you, and if you have true quotes from the Bible that are in regards to homosexuality (that are not interpreted perversely) please let me know. Thanks for all your time! –Thomas XXXX (member of the GLBT community)

J. Salza: Thomas, I am not advocating hatred of what God made. To the contrary, I am advocating love for what God made (namely, the human body and its holy purposes). If I hated homosexuals, I wouldn’t say anything to them. I would let them remain in their sins.

In addition, I am advocating what God has spoken through His apostles. The Bible is the revealed, written Word of God, dictated to the writers by the Holy Spirit. By advocating what God has revealed to us (that homosexual behavior is sinful), I am advocating love for God and neighbor, according to the divine precepts that God has given to us. All this talk about “don’t judge anyone” or “leave the judgment to God” is nonsense. Were the apostles being too judgmental for condemning homosexual behavior? We are called to make judgments at every point in our lives. Yes, God is the ultimate judge, but we must make judgments about living moral lives according to God’s revelation, or we will face a judgment of condemnation.

God loves sinners, but He hates sin, especially the sin of homosexuality. In fact, the Scriptures say that homosexuality is one of the sins that cries out to heaven for God’s judgment (Gen. 18:20). When sinners make up their minds not to seek God and repent of their sins, God will hate the sinners as well, and He will judge them accordingly. Homosexuals are among the most obstinate sinners in the world. They often flaunt their sinful lifestyle and become enraged at those who denounce their behavior. They “turn the truth of God into a lie” (see Rom. 1:25, which coincidentally is in reference to the sin of homosexuality). They risk God’s judgment unless they repent and try to live chaste lives.

Having said that, a homosexual disposition, while dangerous, is not a sin per se. It is the homosexual act that is sinful. The Bible clearly teaches this, both in the Old and New Testament. But we don't even need religion for this. Homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered because they violate the natural law. It does not take a brain surgeon to understand that penises are not meant to go into rectums. Such an act could only be pursued to satisfy disordered, carnal desires, since the act can never be life-giving. God has revealed that true love is, always and without exception, life-giving. Homosexual acts can never be life-giving. Men cannot bear children.

God established His first covenant of love with humanity through the marital covenant with Adam and Eve. Marital love reflects who God is in His essence. As Christians, we know that God is three in one. When a man and a woman become one flesh in the sacrament of marriage and bring forth new life, they also become three in one. Marital love is therefore a reflection of the Blessed Trinity, God Himself. Sexual relations outside of this context violate the marital covenant and are deeply offensive to God. This includes any sexual act outside of marriage (hetero, homo, bi). This is also why it is sinful to prevent the conception of children. God has revealed that you can never separate life from love.

You accused me of having a “sick” interpretation of these Scriptural passages, and even suggested that your homosexual community is more in accordance with “a good Christian lifestyle.” Can you back up these audacious claims with any Scriptural or patristic witness? Tell me where homosexual behavior was ever condoned, much less praised as “a good Christian lifestyle” by anyone in the Church during her 2,000 year-old existence.

Thomas: Your points are valid, but I ask you: Do you eat shell fish? Do you stone children who lie to you? The Bible has verses in regard to both. Do you confess your sins to a mortal man? The Bible has NO verses regarding that. My point is people choose what they want to believe out of the Bible. The Bible also says that men should have short hair, but the common and most accepted picture of Jesus shows him to have long hair.

J. Salza: Thomas, let me first make a crucial point about the 2,000 year-old faith. You are correct that people choose what they want to believe out of the Bible, and this is wrong. So we agree on this point. This is the very reason why God gave us a Church, who is a living and breathing teaching authority on matters of faith and morals. This is the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church, whom Christ built upon the person of Peter (cf. Matt. 16:18-19), and to whom Christ gave the keys to the kingdom of heaven (cf. Matt. 16:19). This is why St. Paul calls the Church the "pinnacle and foundation of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide the Church into all truth on matters of faith and morals. That is how Peter and the apostles have the authority to bind and loose in heaven what is bound and loosed on earth (cf. Matt. 16:19; 18:17-18).

God did not just give us the Bible in order to have us decide what is true and what is not concerning faith and morals, as you are attempting to do. This "bible alone" theology was never taught by Christ, and was introduced to Christianity by the Protestant reformers 1,500 years after Christ ascended into heaven. God loves us so much that He gave us His Son, and, because He desires to save us, He is bound by His justice to give us a mechanism to discern truth and error - this is the Holy Catholic Church. History shows that this Church is the only Church who has consistently taught the same thing for 2,000 years on matters of faith and morals (of course, no other Church has existed for 2,000 years). So you can't pick and choose Scripture verses to prove a point without interpreting them in light of the teaching authority and tradition of the Church.

Second, the verses you mention above about shell fish, hair and stoning were teachings under the Old Covenant, so they don't have relevance to the New Testament Church. The Old Covenant has been abrogated by the New Covenant. Also, your statement that the Bible does not teach confession to men is wrong. See Matt. 9:8, where the gospel writer says that the authority to forgive sins was given to men. See also John 20:20-23, where Jesus, after His resurrection, breathes on His apostles and gives them the authority to forgive and retain sins. The sacrament of confession is clearly biblical, but we know it is true without the Bible because it has come to us from Christ through His Church.

Third, you have chosen not to address the explicit, Scriptural teachings condemning homosexuality in both the Old and New Testaments. You instead try to defend your position by referring to annulled edicts of the Mosaic law regarding eating shell fish. Why is that?

Thomas: In regards to your commit about people getting married and having sex to have a child: What about when the man has a vasectomy or wears a condom? What about when the woman is barren or has her tubes tied? This cannot lead to the birth of a child, but the Catholic or Christian Churches are not working to stop the operations or acts or they are not pushing them as hard as they are push the Anti-Gay sentiment.

J. Salza: The man who has a vasectomy or wears a condom is deliberately trying to prevent the conception of a child. This is an intrinsically evil act, inside or outside of marriage. This is what Christendom has taught for 2,000 years (not to mention other religious faiths). Same thing for the woman who has her tubes tied. This is an act of mutilation which is gravely sinful, because its purpose is to deliberately impair a natural bodily function. The woman who is barren, not by her own choice, is not engaged in sin. She has done nothing to deliberately thwart God's will. God looks at our intentions, and whether we truly want to live in conformity with His will.

Also, you are wrong when you say the Catholic Church is not working to stop these acts. The Catholic Church has established hospitals all over the world where women can receive health care without the pressures of the evils of sterilization and abortion. The Catholic Church is also the most vocal institution in the world when it comes to pro-life issues. Pro-life means being open to life (not preventing conception, or causing death through abortion, or engaging in sexual acts that do not have the possibility of life).

Thomas: I too agree with you that a spiritual marriage is between a man and woman, but the government, the church, you, or I cannot push our belief on other people. That is why people fought for America! Leave the judgments to God.

J. Salza: Do you mean that we should counsel everyone to live they way they want to, and leave the judgments to God? That suggests that God doesn’t care how we live. But He would not have revealed how to live moral, Christian lives if that were the case. In fact, He would have never become incarnate to suffer and die on a cross if that were the case. We should not force our beliefs on people, but we must proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, and this gospel is a gospel of life. It is absolutely incumbent upon all the baptized to stand up for the truth and reveal the errors and lies of the culture of death. This we must do. We don't condemn people (God does), but we must bring people to the truth because it is a matter of their salvation (God desires all to be saved, and so He wants us to evangelize the world). Your message is not one of love. It is a lie, because it doesn’t regard the eternal consequences of a person’s lifestyle.

Thomas: Judging people is a sin and all sins are equal, so judgment and homosexuality should be just as bad even in your eyes. Please don’t give me the rhetoric that having homosexual feelings are not wrong, but the act is. That is something that is said to help convert people and subjugate who they are to make other people happy. I hope to hear what you have to say. Thanks Thomas

J. Salza: Where does it say “judging people is a sin and all sins are equal”? It is a cop-out for you and anyone else to say judging people is a sin in order to thwart people from proclaiming the truth. You are espousing a worldview that prevents people from making moral and doctrinal judgments about truth and error, right and wrong, and you can see how silly such and argument is. In such a world, anything goes, because it is wrong to make a judgment about it. This is nonsense. It is out of love for God and each other that we must make judgments about the morality of certain actions. This is what God desires us to do, and this is why He left us a Church - to guide us into all truth. When Jesus gave Peter and the apostles the authority "to bind and loose in heaven what they bound and loosed on earth," He was giving them the authority to make doctrinal and moral judgments. To say otherwise is to go against Jesus Christ.

God's love for the sinner but hate for the sin is not "rhetoric." It is a truthful statement that speaks to God's love and mercy. Accusing someone of trying to "convert" someone else is also a statement that seems to fly in the face of Jesus Christ's great commission - "to preach the gospel to all creation" (cf. Matt. 28:19-20). Trying to show someone their error is demonstrating their love for the person. It is trying to bring them into the fullness of salvation that God has died to give us.

Thomas: Your statements, as always, are insightful. I agree with you and believe in what you say. Although, I cannot believe that my life is a sinful one. I do not do drugs, I love God and Jesus, I help others, I give to charities (some the kind you would like and some you would not like), I try to help others with their faith in God and Jesus, and I do not have sex (waiting for the right person.) I have accepted and believe that Jesus was sent to the earth to save man from their sins. This is a gift that is precious and truly valuable. I know where I stand with God and Jesus, and by the way you talk I am sure that you are in good standings too. I do not believe that I am going to Hell. I believe that God made me in His image. God does not make mistakes and to hate who I am is to hate one of Gods creations, so God put me here and gave me my feelings for a reason.

J. Salza: When you say that God does not make mistakes, are you suggesting that God is the author of your homosexual behavior? I hope you are not arguing such a thing, especially in light of the fact that God in the Scriptures condemns homosexual acts. God cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18), so He cannot be the author of what He condemns. God certainly made you in his image and likeness, and this means he gave you freewill to choose between good and evil. Since your freewill is a truth, God must respect your freewill to choose evil, otherwise you really wouldn’t have freewill. However, God calls you to exercise your freewill in accordance with the natural and moral law. Freewill is not a license to do what you please.

Thomas: I know that you do not hate me, but I feel that maybe not you (but some others in the Church) use their beliefs in God and Jesus to justify their hate for the Homosexual person and/or lifestyle. To use this to mask and justify their hate makes me ill. The Church and fellow Christians should use their faith to unite each other in a common goal: bringing people to God and Jesus. You and the Church are doing God and the Bible good by telling people what is told in the book. The media may be making the War Against Gays more than what is really going on, but I think that God wants people to believe in Him and His Son even if they were gay. Wouldn’t it be better to try to bring people into Church verses pushing them away? Sadly I have seen with my own eyes the way that churches, Catholic and other, have closed their doors to Gays. The door my be physically unlocked to them, but the peoples’ actions, facial expressions, and hearts can be all the clues gay people need to know that they are not welcome. I know that you and many of the Church will never accept gays, but maybe tolerating them would not be so hard. I know that the church tolerates people who come to church on Sundays, go to the casinos on Mondays, get drunk Tuesdays-Fridays, and steal on Saturdays. They tolerate them because maybe they will learn the error of their ways and grow to fix them with the help of God, Jesus, the Bible, the people, and faith, and yet they do not accept them. I don’t need you to carry a sign on Capitol Hill saying “Gay Marriage Is Fair Marriage,” nor do I want you to change want you believe is right. All I ask is for church (the Pope, the hierarchy, you, and the people) to treat everyone with the fairness and respect that God and Jesus would. Open your doors, your arms, and minds instead of turning gays away from God (as my church has tried to do). You will bring more people to God. I know that I will never change who I am, and I know that I will always be close to God and Jesus. I will have to answer to God just like you and everyone else, but I know that I will have done my part by helping people be close to Him and not condemning their actions and turning them away. When people give Biblical verses to make a point, people do what I did and try to use them against them (fight fire with fire). I think it would be better to tolerate people and bring them to God and let them answer to Him and no one else on the Day of Judgment.

Thanks again for your time and I hope God pours His blessings on you and the Church. -Thomas

J. Salza: Thank you Thomas for your charitable email. The arms of the Church are wide open to everyone - the rich, the poor, the handicapped, the homosexual, the mentally ill, and especially the unborn. Christ's Church is a Church of love (but her members do not always conduct themselves appropriately).

Because the Church is rooted in the love of Christ, she teaches the truth. She is Jesus' Spouse, guided by the Holy Spirit, to lead all of us to the truth and salvation. When the Church teaches something regarding faith and morals, you can believe it to be true. When the Church teaches that homosexual acts are sinful, they are sinful. As I said before, this is not even a religious issue first, but an issue concerning the natural law. The body was not made for homosexual sex. It is unsafe. It leads to disease and death. It does not give life. These are the natural reasons. The spiritual reasons are that God has revealed that these acts are sinful. They violate God’s design for human love and the body. He has done so through the Scriptures and His Church. There is no way around this. Again, I am focusing on the acts themselves, not the feelings. I may have temptations against chastity, but I choose to engage my will to fight them, by God's grace.

We do not know why gays have their feelings, just like we may not know why a person wants to molest a child, or murder someone. These are all temptations, perhaps from the devil, or borne from our environment, or perhaps even a biological issue. We don't know. What we do know is that God wants us to fight these temptations by living pure and chaste and holy lives. We don't say we were created this way or that way and that is it; we give in. That is almost like saying, because I was born without my limbs, I refuse to make a contribution to society. God calls all of us to live in accord with His divine plan, no matter what our circumstances or temptations are. You could be called to have these feelings so that you dig deeper into the mystery of God and His plan for your life - a life of virtue, holiness and chastity. Perhaps you are even called to give witness to this. Pray about it, and follow Jesus and His Church. God has given us His revelation for our salvation.

God bless you.

John Salza

4. Another dialogue with a homosexual

Kevin: "Homosexuals must seek forgiveness and become chaste?" Ugh. How about bigots seek forgiveness for conveniently forgetting Jesus' most important teachings?

By the way, your kind and loving "analysis" of homosexuality contradicts itself. First you call homosexuality shameless, and then you say that "homosexual attractions and inclinations are not by themselves sinful." If you're going to be a bigot, you should at least make up your mind about your bigoted position.

J. Salza: I don't call homosexuality shameless. The Scriptures do (and they are God's word). I will look past your name calling and make a critical point I hope you understand.

1. Homosexual inclinations, if not acted upon, are not sinful (although they are dangerous).

2. Homosexual acts are sinful.

Homosexual sex is sinful because it contravenes the natural law (and I don't care what religion you are in, it is always the case). The act is nothing more than two (or more?) people reducing their bodies to pleasure seeking objects. It is self-centered and selfish. True marital love is always open to life. If we were all homosexuals, human life would eventually cease. No one in their right mind, following the natural law, would advocate a lifestyle that would exterminate the human race.

If you do accept God's Revelation in Scripture, you know that God's covenant plan for marriage was with one man and one woman, who become one flesh in the marital act, to bring forth new life. Just as God is three in one, the married couple, when their act conceives a child in God's creative love, become three in one. Their love is enfleshed, just as God's word became flesh. This is God's plan for marriage.

Kevin: First of all, thank you for responding, and ignoring my anger.

You say that "no one in their right mind, following the natural law, would advocate a lifestyle that would exterminate the human race." No, of course not. Homosexuality, however, in its current state - and the state it's been in for millennia - poses very little threat to humanity, as approximately 10% of the population is attracted to the same sex. Were that number much higher, I would agree with you, as no one wants to go the way of the dinosaur; but it's not.

J. Salza: This is not the main reason for opposition to homosexuality; it simply takes the homosexual position to an extreme, and presents the consequences of that extreme. Nevertheless, the argument should be meditated upon. Throwing statistics in presents almost a "utilitarian" argument which can never be used to address a question of morality. With morality, it is either right or wrong. It is not right until 50% of the population becomes homosexual, and then becomes wrong. I am sure you see the fallacy of such an argument.

Kevin: "The act is nothing more than two (or more?) people reducing their bodies to pleasure seeking objects. It is self-centered and selfish." Are you implying that homosexuals cannot love each other as you or I might love a woman? By that logic, every time a man and woman (married or not) fornicates without the explicit intent to create children, they're "debasing" themselves.

J. Salza: First, homosexuals cannot “love” each other as married heterosexuals because life will never be a part of that “love.” You cannot deliberately separate life from love, because love is sharing in God's own divine life, who is love. Thus, as regards the marital act (man and woman), the married couple must always leave open the possibility of new life. They can never deliberately frustrate God's desire to potentially create a new eternal life. This is contraception, which the Church (and all world religions until about 1930) has always opposed. Homosexuals do not even have the possibility of creating new life, so their sexual acts are objectively disordered, always and everywhere.

Kevin: Or do you never engage in sexual activities for recreation? As admirable as that may be (and believe me, I admire those who have the willpower to resist the temptations of the flesh), refusal to do so is ignoring human nature and needlessly denying oneself a basic pleasure of life - I believe you might call it "contravening the natural law."

J. Salza: I agree with you that the chaste life is impossible. Except for grace. God gives the graces necessary to lively chastely, but only if we truly commit ourselves to it, and fervently pray for it. Nothing is impossible with God. The witness of 2,000 years of saints who lived chastely gives me great hope that I can too. And regarding "ignoring human nature," human nature is wounded by original sin and concupiscence (the proclivity to sin). We all know that we gravitate to sinful things at times, but that is not how God intended us to be. God created us for holiness, and through Christ, he makes our nature new, and it stays this way, provided we persevere in prayer to live chastely. Millions of people are living this way. They are fighting the good fight for chastity.

Kevin: Here's my most pressing question, though. I've been looking for an intelligent conservative Catholic (you're a rare breed, unfortunately) to explain this. The New Testament tells us to "love thy neighbor," yet the Old Testament undeniably frowns upon sodomy and homosexuality. As someone who lives his life by the Scripture (as seems to be the case; please correct me if I'm wrong), how do you reconcile the two?

J. Salza: Because loving your neighbor means telling them the truth. Loving someone means you want the best for that person, and that means heaven. If I truly love you, I want you to go to heaven. Therefore, I am going to tell you the truth. The truth is that homosexual acts disintegrate us, and turn us in toward ourselves, in a self-centered fashion (your comment about "recreational sex" is just that - self-centered). We cannot truly love God and give ourselves to God when our lives are about us and our desires and pleasures. We can only go to heaven if we love God, as He loves us. Also, it is not just the Old Testament that condemns sodomy. The New Testament does as well (Rom 1:27; 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10). Thus, St. Paul is being perfectly consistent by commanding us to love one another and condemning homosexuality at the same time.

Kevin: You say you "love the sinner and hate the sin;" this seems to solve the problem, but how often is it actually fulfilled? Even in your intelligent and reasonable email, you show a bias against homosexuality, not just the act normally associated with it. Please clarify for me, as I truly am interested in knowing how a devout Catholic deals with this dilemma.

J. Salza: I hope that loving the sinner and hating the sin is how we Christians live, but, just like chastity, it is impossible - without God's grace. I have a “bias” for truth, and that is both the truth of the natural law, and the truth that has been revealed to us in Jesus Christ - the greatest gift of life-giving love that the Father has given to each of us.

Kevin: First of all, it seems that the main difference between us is that you live your life by Catholic teachings exclusively (or near to it); I refuse to allow any one set of norms to determine the course of my existence. (After reading that, would it surprise you to know that I'm 18? Heh.)

J. Salza: No, that doesn't surprise me. It makes sense. When I was 18, no one was going to tell me what to do either. But I came to know that I am not the infallible discerner of truth and error. God is.

Kevin: Basically, I see the teachings of the Catholic Church the same way I see the law - as a set of rules, to be ignored when they conflict with my sense of "what's right." My inner moral compass is calibrated on one simple dictate: make the world a better place, here and now, by loving everyone and everything.

J. Salza: This demonstrates a profound ignorance (and I don't mean to disparage you here) about Christianity, which is the Revealed truth of God to humanity. It is not about a set of rules. It is about truth and error, life and death. While God did give you a conscience to decide what is right and wrong, your conscience must be illumined by God's revelation, or you may not be doing the right that God calls you to do. Don't be fooled by an allusion of self-sufficiency. You are not. You need God to show you the way, and that way is in Jesus His Son, whom He gave to you.

Kevin: The Bible, especially the New Testament, can teach us a lot about how to do that - but in the end, it's just advice. If I feel that, in a certain situation, this advice conflicts with the dictate, I consider it morally corrupt and discard it. I cannot, in good conscience, follow teachings that I find to be morally corrupt, nor will I blindly follow the teachings of an institution simply because said institution is "affiliated" with God.

J. Salza: Again, this comes from a person who doesn't understand the concept of Revelation. The Bible is not advice. The Bible is God's supernatural Revelation to humanity, which was consummated in the Revelation of His Son in the flesh. You have no special charism to contradict what God has revealed, no matter how right you "think" your position is. When the Bible says that obstinate sinners will suffer eternal punishment in the fires of hell, this is not “advice.” This is a divine warning from God.

Kevin: What I'm trying to get at is that this world, and the people in it, is much more important to me than God.

J. Salza: That is sad, because God loves you more than anyone in this world ever will. With this attitude, you are just setting yourself up for a painful fall. You are putting your faith in worldly things that fade away, not the heavenly things that are your rightful inheritance if you would just open up your heart to God.

Kevin: I feel that the vast majority of the time, the teachings of Christ offer the best way to improve our world; therefore I label myself a "Christian." I refuse, however, to follow a teaching that forces me to deny my love for my fellow man - even if said teaching comes from God.

J. Salza: Don't give Christianity lip service. Don't do us any favors. You either are with Christ or you are against Him. This is just what Jesus said. Will you follow him, or like Adam and Eve, decide what is best for you on your own? You will be judged on how you respond to God and His revelation for your life. The fact that you at least acknowledge God and consider His influence in your life tells me you have His grace and the possibility of changing and doing something great for Him in your life.

Kevin: I suppose that all of this renders our discussion academic, since neither one of us is going to convince the other to change the basis for his life. What the hell, though - debate is fun. Regarding your comments about life having to be a part of love, what about a marriage in which the woman is infertile? By your reasoning, any act of sex in this relationship would be self-degrading; I think that's foolish, but that's beside the point. If homosexuality is discouraged because creation of new life is impossible, why does the Catholic Church marry infertile couples?

J. Salza: It would be helpful if you took some logic and philosophy courses. My reasoning in no way says what you say it says. The marital act is never self-degrading as long as does notdeliberately contracept. Poor couples who are infertile obviously do not have this intention. The marital act is between one man and one woman as God intended. If a woman is infertile, this has nothing to do with engaging in an act simply for pleasure and with an intention of contracepting (which is always the case among homosexuals).

Kevin: You said: "This is contraception, which the Church (and all world religions until about 1930) has always opposed." And to what end? This is a perfect example of a teaching I would discard because I find it to be morally wrong. The Catholic ban on contraception has led to overpopulation, poverty, and hunger. And all for what? So that the parents can say they were "following the will of God?" This is blind faith at its worst.

J. Salza: First, all religions banned contraception until the 20th century. As far as overpopulation, poverty and hunger, these are the typical cop-out arguments that people raise to justify immoral choices. Contraception has led to the culture of death (abortion, mercy killing, euthanasia, infanticide), and all in the name of "saving society from hunger and population?" Give me a break. Nothing can justify immorality. Life is a higher good than hunger, discomfort and pain. Moreover, you could put all the people in the world in the state of Texas, and give each family an acre of land to boot. The only population problem this world has is an UNDER-population problem. Christians are on the road to aborting and contracepting themselves out of existence. If that happens, the world will be overrun with false religions, and humanity will be doomed.

Kevin: You said: “Because loving your neighbor means telling them the truth. Loving someone means you want the best for that person, and that means heaven. If I truly love you, I want you to go to heaven. Therefore, I am going to tell you the truth." And what if "telling them the truth" makes his life miserable? Can you really be loving your neighbor if what you say to him makes him feel inferior and "wrong?"

J. Salza: Of course you can. What do a person’s “feelings” have to do with truth? Jesus said many will abandon the truth because it is too painful. People will decide to do what they want instead of what God wants. And, just like Adam and Even, it will lead to spiritual death. What about Christ's death on the cross?

Kevin: You said: "We cannot truly love God and give ourselves to God when our lives are about us and our desires and pleasures. We can only go to heaven if we love God, as He loves us." This is where our philosophies most obviously contradict. You put a premium on getting to Heaven; to the detriment, in my opinion, of your life here on Earth. This attitude also manifests itself in your "telling the truth" comment. I refuse to short-change myself, and those around me, by devoting my life to a distant goal. I don't know if Heaven exists, but I do know that I'm here NOW. This life may be the only one I get, and I will make the most of it.

J. Salza: A common attitude of some younger people. Here and now. The problem is, you don't own your life, because you didn't make yourself. God did. You owe Him everything. If you turn away from Him, He will let you go, and you will be lost. Don't do it. I would ask you to take a leap of faith, and, say for the next 30 days, pray. Set aside 1/2 hour for prayer. Communicate with the One who made you and who calls you to be His son. Prayer softens the heart, and allows God to work in you and illumine your thoughts and desires. Try it. Ultimately, serious sin and serious pray can never co-exist together.

Kevin: I have to thank you again for this debate. You've taught me a lot about the Catholic side of this debate - I feel I could effectively argue your side, should the need ever arise - and forced me to examine and articulate my worldview.

J. Salza: I hope someday you do. You are very articulate. Please pray and study Christianity. It is the only true way to happiness, in our Lord Jesus.

5. A dialogue with a woman who defends contraception

Klaudia: My name is Klaudia. I am emailing you because I have read you article about contraception I am a 22 year-old virgin, I've been raised Catholic and have been Catholic all my life. I am also a Psychology major trained not to judge people's lifestyles. I don't understand why the Catholic faith would have something against condoms; for example, and other methods that are not abortive because there would be no fertilized egg. To be honest, I've never emailed a Catholic organization before but I just wanted to let you know that your article and this whole mentality of sex only being righteous for procreation throughout the years has really been discouraging me to want to get married and to want to have children and I'm sure that I am not the only one.

You make marriage and having kids seem like a nightmare! I went from a normal teenage girl to someone who doesn't even want those things anymore because of your portrayal of God! And no, I don't believe that God really intends for sex between married couples to be some basic kind of a shameful act if it's not done within the context of procreation. You are leaving me with a negative view of marriage by saying that sex is only meant for the sake of procreation, and that husband and wife should only have intercourse for that purpose. I would like a response from you because God told me that I am going to be famous and have influence on a lot of people in this world (maybe you think I am crazy but you'll see, remember my name), but I'm not going to insist, I am as irritated with your comments as I imagine you are with mine. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

J. Salza: Dear Klaudia, thank you for your email. The Catholic Church has held contraception to be a grave evil for 2,000 years. This has been the teaching of the Fathers, the doctors, the saints, the medievals, and the popes. In fact, ALL Christian denominations held the same view as the Catholic Church, until the Anglicans at their Lambeth conference held it to be permissible under certain circumstances in 1930. Since then, most of the Protestant churches followed suit, and this has led to widespread decay in sexual immorality, including abortion, unlike anything we have ever seen. Only the Catholic Church, which is the true Church, has preached the truth about contraception.

Contraception is sinful because its separates life from love. Since God is both life and love, and the marital embrace reflects the inner life of the Blessed Trinity, the conjugal act must be open to life as it embraces love. True love means self-giving and life-giving love, which reflects the divine life of the creator. If you divorce life from love, you turn the expression of love into a lie. You say to your spouse, I love you and give myself to you except for my fertility (which is a gift from God). But since Christ gave up His body for His Bride and held nothing back, we too must give ourselves totally to our spouses, which reflects Christ's love for the Church, into which we have been incorporated through baptism.

This is why the Church also prohibits in-vitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood. Life in these instances is created without conjugal love, just like in contraception, where conjugal love has removed life. You cannot separate the two and call it true love. This is not even a question of religion, but the natural, moral law.

You say you are against abortion, but abortion is a logical consequence of contraception. Try to prevent the child from being conceived; but if he is, then prevent him from being born. These evils are from the father of lies himself, the enemy of life and love.

There is explicit Scriptural evidence that condemns contraception, in addition to what I have on the website. See, for example, the book of Tobit, where God's angel specifically warns us that the devil has power over those who contracept, and degrades their marital union to one of selfish pleasure, and not selfless giving (Tobit 6:16-22 Douay-Rheims). Contraception is therefore mortally sinful.

Also, I never said that intercourse is solely for the sake of procreation. I said that the primary purpose of marriage and conjugal love is the procreation and education of children. Of course, God made the act pleasurable, and this act of self-donation brings the spouses closer together as they walk with the Lord. But the primary (not exclusive) purpose of marriage is bringing forth saintly children who will someday populate heaven. In the marital embrace, the married couple must love both each other and the potential children that could result from the union.

I also never said that the conjugal act is shameful. To the contrary, the Catholic Church exalts marriage to a sacrament which can only be consummated by the marital embrace. It is because the Church thinks so highly of the conjugal act that she seeks to protect its integrity and proclaim its divine purpose.

It is not that the Catholic Church is the oddball. It is that all the false churches and religions have chosen to follow the world, and not Christ. Christ will let them go into the well of perdition, because He only promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Follow Christ's Church, and the truth will set you free.

Grace be with you.

Klaudia: Thank you for your response. I was wondering how the Catholic church feels about women who may want to get married but are not sure if they want to have children (who would keep the baby if they got pregnant but they would prefer not to have children; possibly one or two.) My parents are divorced and I think that once a woman has a man's children she becomes even more attached to him. I am 22 years old right now and I am vary attractive but I was always afraid that once I get married and have my husband's children then sooner or later he is going to lose his attraction for me (I don't know if I would be able to maintain my attractive physique after pregnancy, I used to have eating disorders and exercise excessively) and leave me for a younger women. Maybe this is a selfish view but then again if I know my weaknesses then why should I pursue the family life if I can predict based on my experiences how I handle stress like this and what things do and don't make me happy shouldn't allow them to be cheated on. I am Catholic and I don't want to sound like a hypocrite or someone who goes to church just because my family is Catholic so that's what I do on Sundays but I would like to get my views straightened. I understand that prayer is powerful and that God could possibly change the way I've always felt about having children but I highly doubt I want that kind of life. While prayer is powerful, there are still Catholic people in this world who get cancer, for example, and in many situations prayer is not going to take their cancer away, that's what happened to my grandpa, one of the most Catholic people I knew; this is just one example of the people I knew. I just wanted to get my views straightened that is why I asked you about contraception. Thank you for your time. Klaudia. Please respond.

J. Salza: Klaudia, the Catholic Church wants husbands and wives to have children responsibly. If there is a grave reason, husbands and wives may postpone the conception of children, so long as they employ natural means to do so. This is often called Natural Family Planning. Women are fertile only during a certain time in their cycle, and the Church allows couples to refrain from intercourse if they have a grave reason to postpone conception. This is in accordance with the natural law, which cooperates with God's design of the human body. When you introduce foreign elements into the equation (chemical contraception, condoms), you are contravening the natural moral law. Having said that, I must emphasize that the primary end of marriage is bringing forth new life. This is the teaching of Jesus Christ through His apostles and His Church. If you and your future husband do not intend to be open to life during every act of intimacy, you cannot enter into a valid, sacramental marriage.

Far from imposing guilt upon us, the Church actually exalts martial love to the covenantal union of man and woman which reflects the union of Christ and His Church. The world views sex as a selfish pleasure, but Christ and the Church teach that sex is selfless giving (as Christ gave Himself up for His Bride). This is why the Church holds marriage a sacrament (but consecrated virginity is not). When we study the Church's 2,000 year-old teaching, which comes to us directly from Jesus Christ, we come to appreciate the incredible gift marital love is for us. We must be open to God's will for us. This life is short, and heaven is for eternity.

Grace be with you.

6. Suffering and deliberate abstinence

Patron: Since our birth is the beginning of our suffering, then it is better to not procreate (I'm no Albigensian, though). Ultimately, it is Original Sin that has caused our condition. His crucifixion, His suffering, His loneliness, His agony, His betrayal would not have been necessary if were not for that first rebellion. One can help undo it by abstaining when married.

J. Salza: Nowhere does any early church father, medieval, pope, council, or any other orthodox Christian teach complete abstinence in the married state. In fact, if all would follow your rule, life would cease. Your position is nothing less than disobedience to God’s divine command to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28; 9:1,7; 35:11). What exempts you from God’s divine mandate?

You also make suffering to be the reason to die. This is utterly absurd, and completely novel in the annals of Christian thought. St. Paul taught that we make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ by our own suffering, for the sake of His body, the Church (Col 1:24). This means that our suffering has redemptive value. This is so because of our baptism into the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Suffering furthers the work of salvation, and so it is life giving; but you are calling it death deserving, and not life giving. Unlike St. Paul, you are saying that suffering has no value. Such an ideology is not only foreign to Christian thinking, but dangerous to the culture of life that Christians are furthering throughout the world. In fact, your ideology comes from Satan, the father of lies, who begged Jesus to stop suffering and come down from the cross.

The fact is, God creates human life when a married couple is open to it. Willful abstinence such as you espouse is nothing less than contraception, an anti-life ideology that is entirely inconsistent with a God who is both life and love. Such would thwart God's plan which is to save as many as are open to His grace and populate heaven with saints. Yours is part and parcel of the contraceptive, culture of death mentality. Abstinence is only morally acceptable in cases of grave necessity, or when the married persons both agree to replace relations with other spiritual pursuits (prayer, fasting, etc.).

Patron: no one asks to be born with a fallen nature.

J. Salza: True, but no one asked to be freed from our fallen nature either, and that notwithstanding, God freed us from it through Jesus Christ. He did so because He loves us.

7. Can women be priests?

Jiza: Mr. John Salza, you have an awesome website! Thank you so much for your ministry, I refer to your website a lot.

I'm one of the moderators for's Teen Talk forum of Questions of the Church. A common question/heated debate I keep seeing again & again among the teens (girls in particular) is the issue on women priests. I usually refer to 1 Cor 11:3, or the fact that the Apostles were male or when the priest says "This is My Body" that it cannot be female. Is there another way I can explain to teens that priests cannot be women?

Thanks for your help! I understand you're busy! :)


J. Salza: Jiza, thanks for the email. I wrote a section about women in the priesthood in my book The Biblical Basis for the Catholic Faith. At the Last Supper, Jesus conferred the priesthood only upon his male apostles when He said "do this in memory of me" (Mt 14:17; Lk 22:14). Jesus also only breathed on His male apostles in the Upper Room when He gave them the authority to forgive sins (Jn 20:22). Because the priest acts in persona Christi in offering the Eucharistic sacrifice and forgiving sins, the priest cannot be a woman. Jesus, the Son of God, is both priest and King after the order of Melchizedek, and so His priesthood embodies kingship and sonship. In regard to choosing His male apostles, Mark says that Jesus called to Him "those whom He desired" (Mk 3:13). This proves that Jesus chose men according to His desire, and not according to the culture. Since Jesus' will was perfectly united to that of the Father, He cannot be criticizing for choosing males only, without indicting God Himself. I hope this helps.

Grace be with you.

Jiza: John, thanks so much for your answer. I have confronted other women who unfortunately still argue that women should be priests. They have argued that 9 out of 10 Catholic Theologians support women priests, and that there are priests, and nuns who are for it as well. They also point out that the Church of England is now ordaining women, and this would bring about a greater unification of Christianity. I don’t agree with this at all, but what do you say about these arguments?

J. Salza: First, the church of England doesn't even have valid orders for men, so whatever “ordinations” they are conferring upon women is certainly not to the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Second, 9 of 10 Catholic theologians do not support the ordination of women. Third, John Paul II in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis definitively declared that the Church has no authority to ordain women to the priesthood. This is as close to an infallible teaching as John Paul II ever issued. Pressing this issue will only cause even more division in the Church already struggling with scandal.

The theology of the Church on this issue is simple, not to mention settled (for almost 2,000 years) - women cannot be priests because women cannot be fathers. Fatherhood and priesthood have always been synonymous, even back to the days of the ancient people of Israel (Judges 17:10; 18:19). Priests are spiritual fathers just as women religious are spiritual mothers. Each has beautiful and defined roles within the Church. When the priest offers the holy sacrifice of the Mass, he acts "in persona Christi," becoming an "alter Christus," acting in the person of Christ as Christ Himself, offering His sacrifice to the Father. A woman cannot act in the person of Christ because she is a woman - to suggest otherwise is unthinkable theologically and ontologically.

This in no way denigrates the role of women in the Church. Our greatest human model of Christian faith, hope and love is a woman - Mary, the virgin Mother of God. It is unfortunate how so many Catholics are blurring gender roles that have been divinely ordained by God. Such has led to great problems within the Church, even on issues of homosexuality and same-sex “marriage.” Those who formally deny the Church’s definitive teachings on women and the priesthood are, unfortunately, leading themselves right out of the Church and into perdition.

8. Contraception – The REAL reason why it is wrong

Lisa: John, I have been studying the Church’s teaching on why contraception is wrong. I can’t reconcile the Church’s teaching about separating life from love with Natural Family Planning, where couples try to avoid having children. Doesn’t NFP promote the separation of life and love as well?

J. Salza: Lisa, many in the post-conciliar Church think they understand what the Church teaches regarding contraception and NFP but, unfortunately, they are way off the mark. First, contraception is wrong because it is a violation of the natural law and disobedience to God’s divine command to “be fruitful and multiply.” THAT is why contraception is morally wrong. It’s not because there is “a separation of life from love.”

The “separation of life from love” may be a consequence of the contraceptive act, but not always. For example, someone may use contraception (birth control pill, condoms) and still get pregnant. In such case, there was no separation of “life from love.” The couple conceived. But the sexual act was still intrinsically evil. Why? Because the couple engaged in an unnatural sexual act (trying to prevent conception by artificial means) in defiance of God’s injunction to be open to life.

We need to get back to an understanding of what sin is, which was explained in every Catechism before Vatican II: disobedience to God’s laws. Contraception is nothing less than willful disobedience to God’s divine and moral laws, and that makes it mortally sinful.

Second, NFP is morally permissible only if there are grave reasons why a married couple must defer pregnancy. Because children are a gift from God, it seems to me that such reasons must be grave indeed. In fact, “natural family planning” was never part of the Church’s vocabulary until after Vatican II. The Sacred Penitentiary under Pius IX allowed periodic abstinence back in 1853, but this was only for the gravest of reasons. Same with Pius XI’s Casti Connubi in 1930. Pius XII in 1951 affirmed this in his allocution to the United Catholic Midwives stating that period abstinence would be permissible only in the gravest of circumstances (e.g., sexual intercourse would present life-threatening consequences to the woman as certified by her doctor). Paul VI affirmed the same in Humanae Vitae in 1968.

Certainly, “spacing” children or any other objective of convenience are not grave reasons to avoid conceiving a person with an eternal soul. Many apologists and counselors in the Church act like NFP is the sine qua non of healthy, Catholic marriages. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is another novelty of the post-conciliar Church.

9. Porneia and the Exception Clause of Matthew 19:9

Anonymous: John, I heard you argue that the Greek word porneia (for “unchastity”) in the Exception Clause of Matthew 19:9 refers to any sexual sin. This is incorrect. The word porneia refers only to sexual relationships between blood relatives, that is, those who were too close in consanguinity. To argue that porneia means any sexual sin like adultery is quite Protestant.

J. Salza: Anonymous, you could not be more wrong. In fact, yours is the Protestant position and it is based on a misunderstanding of the application of the Exception Clause. Here is why. Protestants want to except adultery from porneia because they incorrectly interpret the Exception Clause to apply to both the divorce and remarriage. They (at least many of them) correctly believe that it is immoral to divorce and remarry for adultery. Thus, they believe that porneia cannot mean adultery because, according to their interpretation, it is permissible to divorce and remarry for reasons other than adultery (i.e., incest). If porneia included adultery, then, according to their interpretation, it would be okay to divorce and remarry for adultery but this is not true. That is why they argue that porneia does NOT include adultery. You have fallen into this error, and it makes your exegesis of Matthew 19:9 also erroneous.

The weight of the exegetical evidence, as well as the Church Fathers and Medievals (Clement of Alexandria, Basil, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, Gregory the Great, Lombard, Bonaventure, Aquinas, Bellarmine) and the Council of Trent, all side with the Catholic position (which, of course, happens to be my position as well): the Exception Clause applies to the divorce only, not the remarriage. That is, Jesus was allowing divorce (but not remarriage) for porneia.

In Matthew 19:9, Jesus says, “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery.” Notice that Matthew places the Exception Clause between the relative clause (“whoever divorces his wife”) and the indicative clause (“and marries another”). In doing so, Matthew is emphasizing that the Exception Clause is limited to what has immediately preceded it. If the Exception Clause were placed at the end of the sentence, it would not be clear whether it would apply to the relative clause, the indicative clause or both clauses.

In fact, if the Exception Clause came at the end of the sentence, Jesus’ teaching would be utterly confusing. Would it mean that an offended spouse could leave her fornicating husband and remarry another man? Would it mean that an offending husband could marry his mistress with whom he committed adultery? Jesus’ teaching would be misleading at best. That is why the Holy Ghost inspired Matthew to place the Exception Clause where he did. So, next time, Anonymous, do your research before you accuse a fellow Catholic of being “quite Protestant.”

Anonymous: I agree that the Exception Clause applies to the divorce only, and not the remarriage. What I disagree with is your interpretation of porneia to include adultery. Porneia refers to a state of sexual uncleanness that comes from intercourse with blood relatives. That is the only type of sexual uncleanness that a Jew would have been subject to.

J. Salza: What? I don’t think so. If a Jew contracted a marriage with a Gentile, that would have also rendered the Jew unclean. If a Jew committed a homosexual act, that would have rendered the Jew unclean. If the Jew committed an act of bestiality, that would have rendered the Jew unclean. Sexual uncleanness for the Jews was not limited to incest. I don’t know where you are getting your definition of porneia, but I can assure you that it is not from any knowledgeable Catholic resources. Nevertheless, let me demonstrate using the Scriptures why your definition of porneia is incorrect.

While porneia does include the sexual sin of incest as you insist (see 1 Cor 5:1), it is more encompassing than that. Porneia includes any kind of sexual sin, whether it be incest, fornication, adultery (which is a type of fornication committed by married people; see Sir 23:32-33), homosexual and lesbian acts and bestiality. You would have learned this by briefly checking any New Testament Greek Lexicon, where porneia is used 25 times. That is where we get the word “pornography” (viewing sexual sin, which is not limited to incest).

For example, in Romans 1:29, Paul connects porneia with homosexuality. In 1 Cor 7:2, Paul uses porneia in the context of adultery by saying that every man should have his own wife and every woman her own husband so as to flee porneia. In 1 Thess 4:3-5, Paul uses porneia in the context bad sexual motivations, that is, taking a wife in lust and not in holiness. In 1 Cor 6:9, Gal 5:19, Eph 5:3, and Col 3:5 Paul uses porneia in the more general sense of fornication, as does Apoc 2:21; 9:21; 14:8; 17:2,4; 18:3; and 19:2. The Scriptures are crystal clear that porneia is not limited to incest, and generally does not mean incest, unlike what you have proposed.

Now, let me explain the theology behind the Exception Clause for porneia which I believe you have missed in your analysis. The reason why Jesus allows divorce (but not remarriage) for porneia is because porneia (e.g., adultery) has already divided the spouses. In marriage, the spouses have become one flesh (Gen 2:24; Mt 19:5-6; Mk 10:8; Eph 5:31). When a married person enters into a one flesh union with someone other than his spouse, he ruptures the one flesh union he has established with his wife. While this competing one flesh union does not dissolve the marriage (which is why it is impermissible to divorce and remarry for porneia), it nevertheless divides the man between his wife and his adulteress. Paul even says that such a man carries the sinful effects of his adultery around in his body (1 Cor 6:16-20).

Because the fornicating man has separated himself from his wife by entering into a one flesh union with another, the divorce that Jesus allows simply ratifies the condition that the man has already created. There has been a rupture in the original one flesh union, and the divorce merely legalizes that which has already occurred, mystically and theologically (the bodies have separated). One body can have only one union, not two or more unions.

This is why Jesus, right before teaching about the exception for porneia, said, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mt 19:4-6). Thus, Jesus sets the theological stage for the Exception Clause which He presents three verses later – divorce is permissible for porneia because the porneia has already ruptured the one flesh union, and the divorce merely legalizes the rupture.

Paul also teaches that it is impermissible to divorce and remarry another. In Romans 7:2-3, Paul says that a woman is an adulteress if she is with another man while her husband lives. In 1 Cor 7:39, Paul teaches that marriage is dissolved only by death. In 1 Cor 7:10-11, Paul says that a wife should not separate from her husband, but if she does, let her remain “unmarried” or reconcile with her “husband.” Although the woman has separated from her husband (which is divorce), Paul still calls the spouse her “husband” which means the separation did not dissolve the marriage. Her state of being “unmarried” refers to the civil law, while her still having a “husband” refers to the higher moral law.

I hope that clarifies for you the meaning of porneia and the Exception Clause of Matthew 19:9.

John Salza

10. What do you think of the “theology of the body”?

Mary: John, what do you think of Pope John Paul II’s “theology of the body”? I have heard some very disturbing explanations by people who purport to be Catholic theologians, things that I have never heard of before in my over 50 years of being Catholic.

J. Salza: Mary, you are referring to the 130 audience addresses that Pope John Paul II gave regarding his view of human sexuality. I have not studied these speeches in any depth and have gleaned most of my knowledge from TB from the so-called “experts,” so my opinions are not based on Pope John Paul II’s writings, but on what others say that he wrote. Nevertheless, because these people claim to be authoritative interpreters of TB, it is fair to evaluate what they have to say. Based on what I have seen and heard from these experts (most of them lay evangelists), I have serious reservations that TB, at least the way it is being presented by these lay people, is an authentic development of Catholic Tradition. And it is not just because it fails to meet the objectivity and precision of Thomism (which is my preferred approach to theological questions) that I am skeptical. There are other reasons for my skepticism.

First, I sense in the explanations of these apologists a subtle denigration of traditional Church teaching on human sexuality. TB apologists often refer to TB as a great “advantage” over pre-Vatican II teaching, which was too “formulaic” and “arcane.” It’s as if the Church were a sleep at the wheel regarding Catholic sexuality for 1950 years until the TB apologists came on the scene to enlighten us of this “new vision” of John Paul II. They fail to mention that the pre-conciliar documents Arcanum Divinae Sapientiae by Pope Leo XIII and Casti Connubii by Pope Pius XI are the bedrock encyclicals that express the Church’s “vision” of marriage and procreation. Thus, any teaching on the “theology of the body” – which is an undefined and seemingly self-contradictory term – must be harmonized with the teachings of these two great popes. Certainly, there may be developments in the doctrine of the Church, but as St. Pius X taught, these developments must proceed from the same genus of teaching, with the same sense and understanding. It is difficult to reconcile TB with pre-conciliar teaching when pre-conciliar teaching is almost never mentioned. And that might be because TB, which has never been defined by the Church, is a departure from the Church’s tradition on human sexuality, at least what I have heard from the “experts.”

Second, much of the TB catechesis is anthropocentric (it focuses on man and his “self-fulfillment”), and exaggerates the role that sexuality should play in one’s life. TB apologists even attempt to argue that the conjugal act is a supernatural means of sanctification, as if it is some type of quasi-sacramental act. Thus, TB advocates equate the natural good of the conjugal act with supernatural goods. Certainly, because we are both flesh and spirit, there is a spiritual component to our sexuality. But trying to explain the supernatural by means of the natural is an error called Reductionism, and it permeates TB thinking. This is why many TB proponents deny that the husband has true, God-given authority over his wife. They see the natural only. They don’t view the husband as the “Christ” of the family who has been given supernatural authority over his wife and children as he leads them to heaven.

Treating the conjugal act as a supernatural means of sanctification has no basis in Catholic Tradition. Such a teaching would certainly be news to many modern saints like St. Therese and St. Maria Goretti, not to mention Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In fact, the truth is just the opposite. That is, abstaining from the pleasures of the flesh helps one grow in holiness. St. Paul teaches this clearly in 1Corinthians 7:1,7. As St. Paul says, the flesh is at war with the spirit, and we are able to grow in the spiritual life only by taming the corporeal passions. The conjugal act is a passing natural good, not an eternal supernatural good. In heaven, there will be no conjugal relations, or marriage for that matter, for we will all be like the angels of heaven. This is why faithful celibate priests and virginal nuns, who have renounced the pleasures of the flesh, are already living a life of closer union with God.

Third, the manner in which many of these “experts” (and, in some cases, perverts) speak of conjugal love is profane and offensive to pious ears. Speaking openly about the conjugal act, especially in mixed company, defies the sensus Catholicus. Such lurid speech deviates from the Catholic sense of modesty. I have heard and read incredible things come out of the mouths of these TB apologists – comparing the physical act of conjugal relations, for example, to the internal life of the Holy Trinity, and even (I hate to say this), the Sacrifice of the Mass. In fact, there are some proponents of TB who actually profess that non-consummated sodomy – an unnatural act and one of the four mortal sins which cry to heaven for God’s vengeance - is a permissible prelude to “lovemaking.” I have heard other filth but I will stop here. Needless to say, this kind of teaching should be condemned, not praised. I am certain that Pope John Paul II never said or wrote such things. One wonders who is monitoring these TB apologists?

Fourth, in light of the comments on sodomy, there is a de-emphasis in TB on the risk of committing mortal sins when exercising human sexuality, even within marriage. But as Our Lady revealed to Blessed Jacinta at Fatima, “the sins which send most people to hell are the sins of the flesh.” The fact is, married couples have more risk of committing mortal sins than those who have renounced marriage for the kingdom of God. They have to constantly struggle with kindled concupiscence, an overindulgence in or disordered focus on sexual pleasure, contraceptive acts and the like, which endanger their souls. Priests and nuns do not face these same temptations. TB apologists would do well to promote a holy fear of hell and damnation for those who choose to indulge in sins of the flesh. Since salvation is the supreme law of the Church, this is a glaring omission in the TB catechesis.

Fifth, TB proponents twist the meaning of the dignity of the human person. They often focus on the body as giving dignity to the person, and back it up by referring to the Incarnation as perfecting the body’s dignity. This is not Catholic Tradition. The traditional teaching of the Church is that we receive our dignity when we have sanctifying grace in our souls, which commences at baptism. That is how our bodies become Temples of the Holy Spirit. It is not the Incarnation which gives us this grace, but the Passion and death of Our Lord. Christ came to save us from hell, not to raise our dignity (which we didn’t possess until baptism). It is true that we are made in God’s image and likeness because we have an intellect and a freewill, but our dignity comes from God’s grace which makes us His Sons and daughters. In a state of grace, we are dignified children of God. In a state of mortal sin, we are alienated from God and have no dignity (without regard to our intellect and freewill).

Sixth, TB advocates invariably promote Natural Family Planning (NFP). It never fails. It is as if NFP is the sine qua non of healthy marriages. Deliberating trying to avoid pregnancy runs counter to God’s divine command to “be fruitful and multiply.” While Pope Paul VI did teach in Humanae Vitae that married couples could abstain from the marital embrace for “grave motives,” the Church has never taught that couples can regulate the size of their families at will, especially by charting fertility cycles and other such measures. This is a novelty that cannot be attributed to John Paul II. In fact, the late pope lamented the low birthrates and contraceptive mentality in the West (Ecclesia in Europa, No. 8, 2003). Advocates of NFP show a disregard for Divine Providence and put their trust in the fallible judgments of sinful man.

Again, I reiterate that these criticisms are based upon what I have read and heard from TB apologists. These are not criticisms of John Paul II, for I have not studied his speeches on this subject in any depth, and highly doubt his writings convey the foregoing. Instead, my criticisms are based on the “crib notes” version of the most popular TB apologists, who claim to speak authoritatively for TB, but surely have mutilated the message. It is not my practice to name names on my website; I simply want to arm my patrons with the information and the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church. I also presume the good intentions of the TB apologists and consider them brothers and sisters in Christ. In fact, as I have said, some of the TB message is very good, such as abstaining from pre-marital intercourse and denouncing pornography. But when I see teaching that opposes our Catholic tradition, I am duty-bound to respond. Thank you, Mary, for raising this very important issue. I hope my reflections are helpful.

Instaurare omnia in Christo!
John Salza

11. Marriage and the Pauline privilege

Brendan: Hi John, I wondered if you could clarify the following for me:

In your 'Biblical Basis' you state that if two unbaptised people get married, and then one of them AFTER the marriage gets baptised, and the non-baptised person leaves, then this can be classed as if there was no marriage to dissolve? However on which is quite traditional, it doesn’t seem to mention the criteria that one of the partners has to be baptised after the marriage. It states:

Paul taught that divorce of a natural marriage is not desirable (1 Cor. 7:12-14), but he went on to teach that natural marriages may be dissolved in certain circumstances: "If the unbelieving partner desires to separate, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. For God has called us to peace" (1 Cor. 7:15).

As well as this answering the above for me, what if two unbaptised people are married in a church but one of them leaves the other, or they mutually leave each other? i.e they are both unbaptised AND non believers to begin with?

Cheers John

J. Salza: Because we are talking about two different scenarios.

Catholic Answers is talking about marriage between unbaptized people who stay unbaptized. This is a non-sacramental marriage and so it is not indissoluable. I am talking about marriage between unbaptized people where one gets baptized after the marriage. This is what Paul is addressing in 1Cor 7:15 when he refers to the "unbelieving (unbaptized) partner."

Brendan: I get you. Ok, but when you say 'validated by the Church', do you mean it has to be Catholic John? The two people I'm thinking about were married in a 'United Reformed Church' which is obviously protestant. A was Baptised, B was not, and B left A months later. I guess therefore this is still indissoluble?

J. Salza: In a Protestant marriage, the Church investigates whether there is capacity and consent. Capacity means the couple had the ability to get married (e.g., there weren't prior marriages). Consent means the couple freely entered into the marriage. If these elements exist, the Church “convalidates" the marriage in an official act, meaning she recognizes it as valid and indissoluable. The fact that one of the parties was not baptized may go to the issue of consent, meaning the non-baptized may not have had the intention of fulfilling the duties of a Christian (this is a judgment the

Church must make, not us). Outside the Catholic Church, there is no definitive authority that speaks for God, so you don't know. But the Church

generally assumes the validity of such a marriage unless and until it is proven otherwise.

Brendan: Right, I think I see! So if two people get married; A was baptised when a baby, B has never been baptised at all. B leaves A, is this indissoluable?

J. Salza: Only if it was a sacramental marriage, validated by the Church. A baptized Catholic can marry a non-baptized person in a valid, sacramental marriage that can only be dissolved by death, if it meets the canonical requirements. St. Paul was referring to the situation where the two people were not baptized at the time of their marriage, in which case it was not sacramental unless later convalidated by the Church after baptism.

12. The sin of the Sodomites was not homosexuality, but “gang-rape”?

Mary: Anonymous: Dear Mr Salza, I would like to start off by saying that i greatly admire you and i enjoy much of what you write. I've been in 2 minds for some time on whether i should email you but, as you can so obviously see, i've decided to as i am interested in your opinion. Having recently read your page "dialogues with a homosexual" and i find some of your comments...typical.

I am a lesbian and with all my heart i believe in Jesus, and at the momenti am celibate. I say, at the moment, because it is a struggle for me. I do not yearn for sex, i yearn for the companionship of another human being; something all humans can relate to. You, like many others, look upon homosexuality at a base level; the physicaland this leads to bias opinions. Too many people believe that gays are drooling perverts who care about one thing only; sex! You yourself prove this in this quote about gay sex, "The act is nothing more than two (or more?) people reducing their bodies to pleasure seeking objects." Anyone with half a brain would know that this just isn't true. You strip gays of human feelings and convince yourself that we don't like to do all the non-sexual things straight couples do.

I cannot leave without mentioning your comments on Genesis 18 and 19.This verse makes no mention of homosexuality. It simply says that the cry of Sodom is great and their sin is very grievous. Likewise with Gen 19:5. Homosexuality is not mentioned. What is mentioned is the local men’s desire for gang rape. Now,rape is many things; an act of power, an act of control, an act of degredation etc. What it isn't is a exclusively homosexual act.

Well, I shall leave it there along with a question; should religious doctrine stand in the way of basic human rights? Thank you for taking your time to read this.

J. Salza: Thank you for your email. No, I in no way wish to denigrate homosexuals as less than human. They are created in the image and likeness of God like the rest of us because they have God-given intellect and freewill. This issue, at its most fundamental level, concerns the natural law. Woman was created for man and man for woman. It is unnatural for a man to be with a man, and a woman to be with a woman, no matter what "feelings" one has for another. Feelings should never be the arbiter of truth and goodness. I may feel good by committing sin, but it is still sin. Their is an objective moral order, and homosexuality contravenes that order. True love is rooted in the love of the Blessed Trinity, which is a life-giving communion of the Three divine persons. Homosexual activity is not life-giving, and is one of the four sins that cry out to heaven for God's judgment.

Your interpretation of the Scriptures is not correct. Gen 19 says nothing about "gang rape." It is about the Sodomites who were looking to have intercourse with angels whom they mistook for men. 2Pet 2:6-10 and Jude 7 both confirm that the Sodomite's sin was for homosexuality. Paul in 1 Cor 6:9 and 1Tim 1:10 also condemns homosexuality in no uncertain terms. I pray that God gives you His grace and wisdom to embrace His truth and love.

Anonymous: Dear Mr Salza, Many, many thanks for your quick reply. I do not dispute other verses that condemn homosexuality, some of the verse references you gave say it quite clearly. What I dispute is the belief that the worst sin was homosexuality when it just isn't true. Jeremiah 23:14 describes how the men of Jerusalem have become like the men of Sodom; they lie, they commit adultery and they strengthen the wicked. Ezekiel 16:49 describes the sins of Sodom; pride, greediness, idleness and being without compassion to those in need. Jude 7 mentions fornication and strange flesh, not gay sex. Likewise with 2 Peter 2:6-10.Lusts of the flesh is mentioned, but not gay sex.

Gen 19 says clearly describes gang rape!! A large group of men want to have sex with 2 men/angels. We can assume correctly that the men in question will not have given their consent, so the local men are out to force them into a sexual act of depravity. Force + group of men = gang rape. Just out of curiosity, what do you believe will happen to homosexuals when they die? I asked one of my local Catholic priests and he said it didn't matter if they lived a righteous life as possible, they were still going to hell! I've always wondered though, can you truly repent of something that is part of your nature? I mean,if being gay is really part of your genetic make up, can you live as the Lord wants you to? Of course we don't know why some of us are gay, i'm speaking hypothetically. I do know for certain though that it isn't a choice. Ask yourself this; did you choose to be heterosexual? I'm guessing your answer would be no, its just who you are. Maybe then its just the same for homosexuals. And if thats the case then there are 2 answers; 1.)God is flawed. 2.)God created gays for a purpose. I highly doubt number 1 is true, and number 2 leaves us in a very interesting position....

God Speed.

J.Salza: Here is where your exegesis of Genesis 19 is flawed. Men wanted to have sex with other men. That is a sin. If it was forced sex (presumably in this case it would have been), then that would have compounded the sin. Whether it was voluntary or not does not negate the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically evil. If you want to label Gen 19 as homosexual acts without consent, that is fine. But if the homosexual sex was consensual, it would still have been condemned by God. Read Romans, chapter 1. There Paul is not talking about "gang rape," but consensual homosexual and lesbian sex which God forthrightly condemns.

Scripture points out the wickedness of Sodom long before Gen 19. Peter and Jude's reference to "strange flesh" and "lust of the flesh" (ekporneusasai; sarkos heteros) refers to the unnatural intercourse of the Sodomites. This is why to this day we call male homosexual intercourse "sodomy," an intrinsically evil act condemned by God.

What will happen to sodomites when they die? Only God knows. Only God judges the heart. Certainly, God is willing to forgive sodomites for their evil lifestyles if they repent of their sins. Christ shed His blood for these people as well. Unfortunately, it seems that few of them repent. Homosexuals are among the most proud and obstinate sinners in the world. Pride is the biggest obstacle to the grace of conversion. Yes, there is hope for all of us who humble ourselves before our Lord. It is the mystery of grace. But Paul is very clear that sodomites, if they die unrepentant, will not inherit the kingdom of God.