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Jim wrote:

Hi, guys —

My question deals with the mortal sin of involuntary celibacy for the lay person because God's first command in the Bible is to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28) and being alone is the only thing God said in the creation story was not good. (Genesis 2:18) That said:

  • How does one go about making a proper Confession so as to return to God's grace?

I have gone to Confession because of this, and received absolution from the priest, but am having difficulty with the part of the Act of Contrition that says:

I firmly resolve to sin (no more) and to avoid the near occasions of sin.

I don't know how to be involuntary celibate (no more) and avoid being one.

Jim

  { How can a single Catholic who is not married obey God's commandments in Genesis to be fruitful? }

Paul replied:

Dear Jim,

I am going to guess that your problem is that you find yourself as a single adult involuntarily and have a very difficult time being chaste. If this is not the problem you pose, please clarify your question for us.

Remaining chaste as a single adult and especially in our sex-saturated culture, is impossible without grace. Be faithful to the sacraments of Confession and Communion, in that order.

Perseverance is the key. God does not want you to give up or end up despairing. Your desire to overcome your sin is important. Persevere, even if it means repenting regularly and going to Confession on weekly basis. Resolution is important. Firmly resolve to avoid the sin each time and make a plan to do so.

Even if you're not successful, resolution and Confession opens you to grace and eventually things will change for the better. God does not tire in seeing you celebrate the sacrament of Confession. Your sincere repentance and desire to avoid your sin and follow God's Providence will be rewarded, if you persevere in His grace. Receiving the sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion along with praying for a holy spouse may also be a very good thing.

Peace,

Paul

Jim replied:

Hi Paul,

My problem is not with remaining chaste. I am [chaste, celibate, a virgin, whatever other term one cares to use] to describe my situation. I have never had sexual relations with anybody. I had a problem with self-pleasuring but I have confessed it and while I have fallen short of perfection in avoiding it, the instances of it have decreased significantly and when I do fail, I confess it.

My problem is that I have failed to be fruitful and multiply, which by my reading of the Scriptures, constitutes a condemning sin because God commanded it:

  • to Adam and Eve
  • to Noah, and
  • to numerous others.

Since I am unable to find a spouse, I feel as though I can never turn away from this mortally sinful state. I can go to Confession, be absolved, and then as soon as I walk out of the church, I am right back to living in mortal sin because I'm not being fruitful and multiplying (Genesis 1:28) plus I am living alone — the only thing God called not good. (Genesis 2:18) — throughout the entire creation narrative.

I am feeling as though the only way I can avoid dying with the stain of this sin on my soul would be for me to kill myself immediately after going to Confession though that is a different sin.

Jim

Paul replied:

Dear Jim,

You are making a serious error in understanding Scripture and God's Will.

First, even though it is not good for man to be alone, it is not a sin if he is — especially if he is alone for no selfish reason. Someone who is an adult unable to find and secure a worthy spouse is not sinning, but rather carrying a cross, possibly heroically.

There are many good people today carrying this cross. Priests, religious brothers and sisters, and single people searching for spouses are living out worthy vocations if they seek holiness.

Although marriage is good, St. Paul calls celibacy even better (1 Corinthians 7:8-9) in the New Covenant of Christ.

I hope this helps,

Paul

Mike replied:

Jim,

In addition to Paul’s excellent point on vocation, calling, and holiness, I have one concern from your original question. We have to remember what constitutes a mortal sin: This is what the Catechism states:

1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: "Mortal sin is sin whose object is:

  1. grave matter and
  2. which is also committed with full knowledge and
  3. deliberate consent."

If any one of these is lacking it is not a mortal sin. For this reason, one of our backup helpers, John has previously remarked that it is very hard to commit a mortal sin.

Like you, I’m single too and I have my struggles. Without rationalizing my sins, I keep two things in mind:

  1. Jesus was a man like us in all things but sin . . .
    so He empathizes or understands the struggles, and
  2. He confirms it in the Scriptures when He says,
    “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)

Just strive to get to weekly Confession, renew your Sunday Covenant at Mass, and pray daily.

I prefer the Rosary. Unless you have some medical condition related to depression, anything that comes to your mind that is related to any despair comes from that bastard satan and his legions. Tell them to take a hike and pray that you discover your true vocation whether as a Catholic husband with a future spouse and children or as a single Catholic.

To keep things on the light side, I just tell family and friends that I am an Abraham still looking for my Sarah then I direct them to read Genesis 17 to 21.

God has a vocation for all of us. Our job is to discern it; satan’s job is to persuade us not to discern it or to throw it away. Beside Jesus and St. Paul, many other single lay Catholics have done fine work for the Church.

One last point, I can totally understand how a Sola Scriptura Christian would have to, in good conscience, come to the conclusion you have. This is why the Church's official Magisterium or teaching authority is so important — because it consists of both:

I hope this helps,

Mike

Fr. Jonathan replied:

Hi Jim!

There is no mortal sin of involuntary celibacy that one would have to confess. For example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church recognizes the single life:

1658 We must also remember the great number of single persons who, because of the particular circumstances in which they have to live — often not of their choosing — are especially close to Jesus' heart and therefore deserve the special affection and active solicitude of the Church, especially of pastors.

Many remain without a human family often due to conditions of poverty. Some live their situation in the spirit of the Beatitudes, serving God and neighbor in exemplary fashion. The doors of homes, the "domestic churches," and of the great family which is the Church must be open to all of them.

"No one is without a family in this world: the Church is a home and family for everyone, especially those who 'labor and are heavy laden.'"

Pope St. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio 85; cf. Matthew 11:28

There are other ways to be fruitful and multiply besides having children.

  • If I lead another to Christ and that person has a family and their children become baptized and have children of their own — all of them Catholic, have I not been very fruitful and have I not multiplied?

Fr. Jonathan

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