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Jenny Anonymous wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am 60 years old. I have never been married and I have never had sexual relations with a man or women. I am attracted to my own sex but, like I said above, I have never had sexual relations.
I have never lived in or been a part of the homosexual community and would never consider doing that. I have not come out of the closet, as they say, and never will. I've hidden this all my life. My only means of sexual gratification is masturbation.

I am a practicing Catholic who attends Mass every Sunday and sometimes during the week.
I go to Confession at least once a month and sometimes weekly. I feel trapped in my sins of [impurity|masturbation] and I know how wrong it is. I have no problem confessing this particular sin but, all too often, I fall back into it.

I've prayed to have this cross taken away but the habit is now so much of me, I don't see anything that can help. I feel like I have a free pass to commit these sins then just run off to Confession so everything is OK for a few weeks or so. I'm starting to think that I shouldn't go to Confession because I can't be truly sorry if I keep going back and doing the same thing over and over again.

It's my understanding that if I die with this sin on my soul, which the Church says is a mortal sin,
I end up in Hell.

All of the above issues are psychological and sexual problems that I have never been able to deal with.

I'm totally lost and afraid and would appreciate your advice.

Jenny

  { What's your advice for a 60-year-old gal who struggles with concupiscence and sins of the flesh? }

Mike replied:

Hi Jenny,

If you search our knowledge base of postings I think you will get a lot of good advice.
Concupiscence or "sins of the flesh" are struggles we will always have until we are 6 feet under the ground : )

The key is:

  • receiving the Sacrament of Confession when we fall
  • not doing dummy things, like receiving Holy Communion without first going to Confession. (the Pope goes to confession weekly!)
  • praying on a regular basis
  • and having a healthy view of the demonic

What do I mean by that last one?

I mean acknowledging that there are REAL invisible demonic bastard's that can place bad thoughts on our mind and only want to see our soul in one place: hell, while at the SAME time acknowledging that there are REAL invisible holy helpers, called guardian angels that assist us in keeping the soul holy.

When I say a balanced view I also mean: "not seeing Satan or the devil in every mishap that happens in your life" but trusting that Our loving, merciful God is always there to help and assist us. Remember HE was tempted like us and a man like us in all things but sin!! It also means remembering that, if we persevere with the Lord, WE WIN AT THE END.

Here are some search engine results that should provide some information to learn from.

I highly encourage you to read them and remember some of our greatest saints, like
St. Augustine, struggled with the same struggles most all of us have, so you are in good company.

I've appended what the Church teaches on Mortal sin.

Hope this helps,

Mike

IV. THE GRAVITY OF SIN: MORTAL AND VENIAL SIN

1854 Sins are rightly evaluated according to their gravity. The distinction between mortal and venial sin, already evident in Scripture, became part of the tradition of the Church. It is corroborated by human experience.

1855 Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God's law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him.

Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it.

1856 Mortal sin, by attacking the vital principle within us - that is, charity - necessitates a new initiative of God's mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accomplished within the setting of the sacrament of reconciliation:

When the will sets itself upon something that is of its nature incompatible with the charity that orients man toward his ultimate end, then the sin is mortal by its very object . . . whether it contradicts the love of God, such as blasphemy or perjury, or the love of neighbor, such as homicide or adultery. . . . But when the sinner's will is set upon something that of its nature involves a disorder, but is not opposed to the love of God and neighbor, such as thoughtless chatter or immoderate laughter and the like, such sins are venial.

1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: "Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent."

1858 Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: "Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother." The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.

1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God's law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.

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.

1861 Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.

1862 One commits venial sin when, in a less serious matter, he does not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law, or when he disobeys the moral law in a grave matter, but without full knowledge or without complete consent.

1863 Venial sin weakens charity; it manifests a disordered affection for created goods; it impedes the soul's progress in the exercise of the virtues and the practice of the moral good; it merits temporal punishment. Deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin. However venial sin does not break the covenant with God. With God's grace it is humanly reparable. "Venial sin does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship with God, charity, and consequently eternal happiness."

While he is in the flesh, man cannot help but have at least some light sins. But do not despise these sins which we call "light": if you take them for light when you weigh them, tremble when you count them. A number of light objects makes a great mass; a number of drops fills a river; a number of grains makes a heap. What then is our hope? Above all, confession.

1864 "Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven." There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit.137 Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss.

Jenny replied:

Hi, Mike —

Thank you for your response.  I really do appreciate the time you took to respond to the many issues I sent. I neglected to tell you one thing about myself that certainly has had a major affect on who I am today.

I was born with a cleft palate and lip — a double whammy as far as that is concerned. I shed all the tears I will ever shed over this birth defect years and years ago.  I live with it and deal with it the best I can but the psychological damage from it is probably a major reason for many issues of concern in my life. Every once in awhile, I get angry at God about all this and tell him so — I don't really think he minds though.

I read the links you noted in your reply to me and they do help to a certain degree.

The section on mortal and venial sin leaves me somewhat confused. The average Catholic  would not have a clue what this is all about. I have not heard a homily on this subject since I was a kid.
I would almost guarantee that most Catholics would not have a clue on the seriousness and consequences of mortal sin.

I know that most (easily 90%) of the Catholics I know within my own family and friends do not attend Mass nor receive any of the Sacraments at all. They don't seem to really care either. They are all good people leading good lives but have no interest at all in practicing their faith.

Do all these people end up in Hell?

I pray for them and will continue to until my dying day because I also believe in God's Divine Mercy.

Jenny

Mike replied:

Hi, Jenny —

You are absolutely right on the poor catechesis within the Church. This is why studying and reading the Catechism is so important.

RE: your family situation:
No one can judge another person or family member's soul. We all have different backgrounds, educational and religious as well as emotional, maturity and other medical issues.

In most cases, this does NOT excuse anyone from what they should do as a Catholic.

YOUR only obligation is two fold:

  • remind them of their moral obligations: (ONCE)
    • esp. regular/monthly Confession
    • Sunday Mass
    • Ten Commandments, not suggestions : )
    • and a prayer life
      AND
  • pray for them, PERIOD.

One of the hardest things for a family member to keep in mind is that their family member's free will is NOT their free will!

If my brother and sister-in-law omit critical spiritual issues from my niece and nephews upbringing, even if I am the God parent of one, which I am, I can't stop them from doing DUMB, STUPID things spiritually.

I can suggest, recommend, encourage, and pray for them, but that's it. I am not the primary educator, the parents are.

All you can do is pray for them and be a good Catholic witness YOURSELF: e.g.

  • living a sacramental life
  • praying the Rosary
  • wearing and talking about the Brown Scapular
  • starting prayer groups that meet on a regular based.

Many times an effective witness is far better then someone, who is perceived as ultra religious and who ends up yelling or screaming at their family members over obligatory practices, like not going to Mass or not going to Saturday afternoon Confession.

It can be tough, I know, but you have to balance:

  • what they have to or should know

    versus

  • family cohesion and unity e.g. being able to talk to each other.

One last thought. You said:
I neglected to tell you one thing about myself that certainly has had a major affect on who I am today.

I was born with a cleft palate and lip — a double whammy as far as that is concerned. I shed all the tears I will ever shed over this birth defect years and years ago.  I live with it and deal with it the best I can but the psychological damage from it is probably a major reason for many issues of concern in my life. Every once in awhile, I get angry at God about all this and tell him so

Sever medical issues like this can reduce the character of the offense as stated in CCC 1860

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

My colleague Paul wrote an excellent reply to a questioner that dealt with the mystery of suffering. You may get something out of the answer:


Take care,

Mike

Jenny replied:

Mike,

You have provided me with some information that I know will help me in my ongoing struggle with the sins of the flesh. Somehow I doubt I will ever conquer this problem but if one doesn't put some effort into at least trying, the problem simply gets worse with possible dire consequences. When I do fall back into this habit, I never think of going to Holy Communion until I've first gone to [Confession|Reconciliation].

I went to Confession yesterday and confessed most of the same sins I've been confessing for many years. I have no problem going to Confession and I always feel good inside after being there. Unfortunately, I've been having a lot of difficulty with issue of how sincerely sorry am, especially when I keep falling back into committing the same sins then confessing them over and over again.

When I say the last part of the Act of Contrition:

"I firmly resolve with the help of Your grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin. Amen."

How truly contrite are we, if deep inside we know we're probably going to commit the same sins again. I really do struggle with this sometimes, but I still go and have hope that the grace and Mercy of God will help me with this struggle.

I really believe the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a wonderful gift from God, but I worry about those Catholics who for what ever reason:

  • are afraid to go
  • are lapse Catholics, or
  • don't feel they need to go

don't take the opportunity to go to Confession.

  • Can their sins be forgiven?
  • What about non-Catholics and even atheists?
  • I wonder how their sins are forgiven?

I can't help wonder if more is expected of Catholics when it comes to God forgiving our sins.

Hope to hear back from you.

Jenny

Mike replied:

Hi Jenny,

I went back and read your initial question and our replies and I totally appreciate where you are coming from as, I, like St. Augustine, am no Mr. Chastity.  Some of the same struggles you have,
I cope with. The key is having a healthy perceptive of the spiritual battle that is going on in our lives and just doing the best we can.

Remember the Catechism states:

I. Under Man's Freedom I. Freedom And Responsibility

1731 Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. By free will one shapes one's own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.

1732 As long as freedom has not bound itself definitively to its ultimate good which is God, there is the possibility of choosing between good and evil, and thus of growing in perfection or of failing and sinning. This freedom characterizes properly human acts. It is the basis of praise or blame, merit or reproach.

1733 The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to "the slavery of sin."28

1734 Freedom makes man responsible for his acts to the extent that they are voluntary. Progress in virtue, knowledge of the good, and ascesis enhance the mastery of the will over its acts.

1735 Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors.

Under IV. The Gravity Of Sin: Mortal And Venial Sin

1860 The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders.

Under The Sixth Commandment - I. "Male And Female He Created Them"

2332 Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others.

If you are interested in more you can read the CCC on-line. I use this one:
http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc.htm

You said:
When I say the last part of the Act of Contrition

"I firmly resolve with the help of Your grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin. Amen."

How truly contrite are we, if deep inside we know we're probably going to commit the same sins again. I really do struggle with this sometimes.

I've had the same issue on my mind after Confession.

My solution: I just ask the Lord in the Confessional to give me the grace to make a better:

"firm purpose of amendment to sins I have committed"

After that, hey, it's his body and mind, not mine. As long as I am doing the best I can and not doing DUMB things like going to Communion after "enjoying myself" without first going to Confession. I strive to say the Rosary as well.

You said:
I still go and have hope that the grace and Mercy of God will help me with this struggle.

No, you should still go and KNOW that the grace and Mercy of God will absolve you of all your sins. As Catholics, we have an assurance of this, not a hope.

You said:
I worry about those Catholics who for what ever reason:

  • fear
  • lapse Catholics
  • just don't feel they need to go

don't take the opportunity to go to Confession.

  • Can their sins be forgiven?
  • What about non-Catholics and even atheists?
  • I wonder how their sins are forgiven?

I can't help wonder if more is expected of Catholics when it comes to God forgiving our sins.

Every one is responsible for what they know and not responsible for what they don't know, though willful ignorance is no excuse.

What we see in our human sexual passions, in my opinion, is both our bodies saying,
"I want to give life." Nevertheless, this is a calling and a vocation, not a recreational sport, hobby or pastime. God didn't create our bodies to work that way. Both Mary Ann and Eric have made excellent points on this issue in this posting.

I also use this prayer after Confession:

Lord God, you created my body out of nothing. You created it with all its senses: taste, touch, sight, smell, and hearing that come with it.

Although my mind and body may not understand the reasoning behind living a chaste lifestyle or by nature be drawn away from it, I pray you will bless my body {make the sign of the cross over your body} and make it chaste according to your Divine Will.


I ask this in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the champion of chastity: Our Blessed Mother, Mary, Joseph her most chaste spouse and
St. Michael the Archangel.

Amen.

Hope this helps,

Mike

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