Lax Attitudes

October 26 2015 | by

DEAR FRIAR RICK: There is terrible confusion nowadays between sex and love. In the past the Church gave clear teachings on sexual morality, and this created the general sensation that ‘everything is sin’. Our young people, on the other hand, seem to have gone in the opposite direction, into the general belief that ‘everything is allowed’.

It is true that the Gospels speak of joy, but that joy must be something quite different from the common meaning of the word.

It is undeniable that most Catholics have become confused. Because this is a very complex problem, would you, Friar Rick, be able to indicate a book or series of books that explore the relationship between sex and love from an authentically Catholic point of view?


The joy of the Gospel is indeed the joy that we know from our human experience. It is that feeling that lifts us up from the daily grind and breathes life and hope into our lives. But as you seem to imply in your question some sources of joy are more transitory than others. You might compare it to the satisfaction that one derives from different types of food. As a pastry of refined flour and sugar will give you a rush of good feelings, but then see you crash, so will a joy that is rooted in a momentary rush of excitement from sexual gratification that is not coupled with a deeper love.

The Church’s teaching on the morality of human sexuality has not changed, but the insights of pastoral theology and psychology have helped the Church respond more authentically to the lived experience of real people. Thankfully young people are not oppressed by a neurotic or puritanical understanding of human sexuality. But many have fallen prey to a technological view of the human body as a mere instrument of the ‘self’ which can be used for entertainment without any personal consequences. Many forget the Catholic view of the body as sacred and destined for eternity with God.

I recommend you look at Christopher West’s book, Theology of the Body Explained. It’s a balanced attempt to teach Catholic sexuality (based on Saint John Paul II’s talks by the same name) in a way that is accessible to our culture. It’s not a perfect book, but it’s a good start.


DEAR FRIAR RICK: We have a new parish priest who is a most lovable, kind-hearted man – perhaps to a fault. Let me explain: Lately he officiated at the funeral of a businessman who everyone knew was a mean, immoral person.

During the homily, our pastor first spoke generally about human frailty, and then proceeded to described him as a man who was “often very kind to everyone”, while it is well-known that he could be quite mean and unjust to his workers; he described him as a faithful citizen, while he was prosecuted for tax-evasion. In the end he even mentioned his “faithful love for his wife”, while everyone knows he had a string of lovers. During the service I could almost hear some parishioners laughing in disbelief. Don’t you think our pastor is a little too indulgent with his flock?


Or maybe he knows something you don’t know! It is always a very dangerous thing to judge others, and especially the dead. It is equally dangerous to second guess a priest’s judgement call when it comes to a funeral; there are often complexities, circumstances and situations of which you may be unaware. “When in doubt, shut your mouth” is perhaps a rough saying... but it might be a propos here and to any circumstance of gossip. Pope Francis reminds us so often of the damage which gossip causes. Even if true, it is better to keep our tongue in check.

The other extreme of gossip is eulogizing a person as if they were a living saint. A priest or deacon presiding at a funeral must be prudent not to cause scandal to the people by exaggerating or falsifying the actions and behaviours of the deceased as well. In the cases of a more delicate nature the preaching deacon or priest must walk a bit of tight-rope of being truthful but also merciful.

My hunch though is that your case is neither about mercy nor about justice. It may just be that the priest didn’t know the deceased, didn’t bother to talk to his family or prepare an adequate homily. So the priest ends up saying pious platitudes that have nothing to do with the reality of the person’s life. So what can you do? The ideal would be to give your parish priest some honest feedback. If he’s the kind of guy that can handle that kind of conversation it would be worth talking about what you have noticed and ask him how you could help him. It might be interesting to set up a funeral committee in your parish that helps the family of the deceased and the priest through the various options that are available to them.

Updated on October 06 2016