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Justin wrote:

Hello Mike,

Thanks a million for answering my last three questions. They are helping me on my earthly pilgrimage. I've learned that:

  • Lying is always a sin, and
  • Christian music or reflective classical instrumentals are okay for church

The person who had an operation to have no more kids is my mother. I'm hoping to talk to her about it soon — in case she is in need of Confession!

If you could answer some remaining questions it would be appreciated.

My aunt is in a lesbian relationship. She has had two test tube babies with her partner through artificial insemination and has invited all the relatives to her civil marriage ceremony later in the year.

  • Is it a sin if I attend the civil marriage ceremony? I would rather not.
  • Is it okay to play some of the appropriate slow orchestra pieces from The Lord of the Rings films in church, as instrumental reflection:
    • for offertory or post communion,
    • or before or after Mass on violin?

    I know Tolkien was a Catholic and put Catholic ideas in his books, and that the music is beautiful. Nevertheless, would this be appropriate?

    and

  • What does it mean to judge not?

For example, some people I know have terrible problems with probable mortal sins and I include them in my daily intention. e.g.

  1. partners outside of marriage
  2. watching impure films and reading impure books
  3. cursing or swearing
  4. shouting at others
  5. people in a gay relationships
  • Are some of these people in mortal sin, more so if they are Catholics?
  • Are these things always a mortal sin?

When I bump into these people I end up thinking about their lifestyle and to ward off bad thoughts and temptations I tell myself, That's a mortal sin. or That action leads to Hell.

I know I cannot judge them and that I have plank in my own eye and that I myself am a poor, poor sinner but still, I know full knowledge of these sins is a mortal sin.

  • Is that judging them in my thoughts?
  • When is judging someone a venial sin and when is it a mortal sin?

Hope these questions aren't irrelevant.

God bless,

Justin

  { Should I attend her ceremony, is this music appropriate for Mass, and what does judge not mean? }

Mike replied:

Hi Justin,

You said:
My aunt is in a lesbian relationship. She has had two test tube babies with her partner through artificial insemination and has invited all the relatives to her civil marriage ceremony later in the year.

  • Is it a sin if I attend the civil marriage ceremony? I would rather not.

By attending this ceremony you would be testifying that you are witnessing a valid Christian marriage, which you are not, so you should not go.

The term marriage is a Christian term. This is why there is no such thing as gay marriage. Without the help of a third anonymous male party, two women cannot bring forth new life. For that matter neither can two men without the help of an anonymous female party.

You said:

  • What does it mean to judge not?

The word to judge can be understood in two senses depending on the context of the situation.

Jesus makes it very clear in the Scriptures that we have to make judgments. He says:

6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.

Matthew 7:6

In this situation we clearly have to judge:

  • what is holy and what are dogs, and
  • what are pearls and what are swine.

When you hear someone say:

Judge not.

What they should mean in the Christian sense of the saying, is one cannot impute guilt on a person for a specific reason. Only God and that person know:

  • whether they knew what they did was wrong
  • knew whether it was a grave sin, and as the Catechism tells us:
  • 1860 Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense but no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man.

    The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders.

    Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.

In this sense, we shouldn't judge but correct the sinner once in charity. After that, your obligation is complete because he or she now knows the action brought up is a sin.

I'll let my colleagues John and Paul answer the music and related questions below.

Mike

John replied:

Hi, Justin —

It's pretty much been a rule of thumb in the Church not to attend a ceremony or wedding where your presence would be voicing agreement with the action.

For instance, it would be improper to attend a marriage ceremony of a Catholic couple where one or both were divorced without an annulment. That one is very rarely observed these days.

It's not a matter so much of sin on your part, after all when we act in charity, we aren't acting in malice but it's a matter of the signal we are sending.

Certainly this is your aunt and you need to love her as such. You don't exclude her from your family dinner unless you have young children and then you would set rules. If you come to my house for Thanksgiving:

  • you don't call your lover, your wife in front of my kids, and
  • you don't kiss her on the lips in front of my kids

That sort of thing but otherwise you want to treat her like family, because she is. As far as going to the ceremony, that's something I certainly wouldn't do.

As for the children, they are innocent victims. Again, here you have to use your judgment. They are your cousins but:

  • Do you let them play with your children and talk about their two mommies?

Certainly children are going to eventually be exposed to this but you want to be able to teach them to separate the sin from the sinner and not treat the victims (the children) as though they are sinners either.

On the music question, I'm usually fairly open-minded about music although I have definite preferences.

The problem with an instrumental piece from the Lord Of the Rings is that it is a well-known movie and people hearing this at the liturgy may start thinking about the movie instead of being at Mass, so it can be a distraction. Like I said, I'm not legalistic when it comes to music. Most of the time it's a matter of taste but music should enhance worship, not distract from it.

So this isn't a matter of style, it's actually a matter of content even though no lyrics are being sung. Think of a great and beautiful secular ballad that everyone knows.

  • What would happen if the violin started playing Yesterday by the Beatles as reflection piece after Communion or during the offering?
  • Would people's minds to turn to Christ? <No.>

For this reason, this particular piece may be problematic. Now if no one knows it, then it's fine but it's always best to play something that is not secular.

John

Paul replied:

Hi, Justin —

As for your last question on attending this ceremony, although you can't find a solid doctrine on this in the Catechism that tells us what to do when invited to these things, I don't see how anyone of right conscience could possibly attend.

One's presence communicates something. We are there to either celebrate or support someone in their decision to commit what is objectively the matter of mortal sin. Sure, in their lifestyle they may be sinning already, but we cannot in any way give our nod or support.

To my mind, the act of love would be to not attend. Although it may cause much friction and even alter one's relationship with family or friends, choosing God and His Truth is far more important and it would plant a seed that may grow in the future to those who are now closed to the truth.

Knowing I am not the last word on this question, perhaps the rest of my colleagues will have a little different spin.

Paul

Justin replied:

Hi guys,

I agree with all the advice and will not go to the gay marriage ceremony of my aunt.

  • Is the following a mortal sin?

My dad asked me a question and I ignored him and didn't answer. He was asking me what time was I home from work and sometimes he teases me that I don't leave work immediately to help him on his farm in the evenings. That's why I ignored him. (I'm not judging him. Sometimes I could try coming home earlier and sometimes I have extra work of my own to do.)

He asked me two other questions, and I answered no to both questions — which was lying.

The first question I said no before I thought about it, so don't think it was deliberate or premeditated.

The second question he asked me have I ever thought of changing my job. I lied and said no.

He's had plans that I'm to farm with him for life and he really wants and needs me as extra help on the family farm so didn't want to tell him otherwise. I know from researching before that deliberately lying is a grave sin that needs Confession.

  • Do I need to apologize to him and go to Confession before receiving Holy Communion tomorrow?

God bless,

Justin

John replied:

Hi Justin,

It's good that you are conscientious about telling the truth but it sounds like your intention was not malicious. It sounds like you were simply trying to avoid a hassle or avoid being teased and while we should always try to be honest, it doesn't sound like you've committed a mortal sin.

You really need sufficient time to reflect upon the matter and, while you did think about it, it sounds like it was more of reaction than anything else or an error in judgment. You want to avoid being scrupulous.

Ask yourself:

  • Did you lie for some kind a personal gain at the expense of you father?
  • Were you trying to cheat him out of something?

I'm not saying what you did was necessarily right but it doesn't sound like it was rooted in something evil but rather in human weakness. You might want to discuss it with your Confessor in more detail. Perhaps what your father was asking you in the two questions was personal and none of his business. I don't know because you haven't been specific but you need some spiritual direction — something beyond what Confession can provide.

I would say you are free to receive Holy Communion if you can't get to Confession beforehand.

If you can, it's always a good a idea to go to Confession frequently as we all are guilty of sin on daily basis, albeit venial. Certainly our thought life is usually pretty self-centered and we will wander into areas of impurity very easily.

Confession is an encounter with Christ. It's a good thing; not a bad thing. We get strength from it but, again, in this instance I don't see an immediate need to go to Confession before receiving Holy Communion at Mass this Sunday.

John

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