From a reader…
I have been gone from the Church for about 10 years, and I am just starting the journey of coming home; I am a disgusting sinful mess…
I have 3 questions [I usually take one at a time, but this time I’ll make an exception.] and will try to keep them brief.
1) I know my boyfriend and I are not allowed to have any sort of sexual relations together anymore, but does that also mean we can’t sleep in the same bed fully clothed and not doing anything sexual? (Unless we were to get married of course)
2) I had an abortion, so I understand that I am unofficially
excommunicated. How do I remedy this? Must I make a confession to my local bishop for this kind of sin? Also for apostasy or heresy as well? since I had basically declared myself an agnostic atheist.
3) I had started going to Mass the last few days (of course not going up for Holy Communion since I have not made my Confession yet) but am I sinning in even going to Mass in my state?
Thank you so much for your help on any of the questions! This has really been bothering me and I’m not sure what is right.
First of all, all you readers, stop say a Hail Mary for this woman. God is calling her, as He calls each of us, to turn away from our sins and turn more and more towards Him, who alone is capable of giving us the peace and happiness for which we long.
God loves you and has never stopped loving you no matter how far you feel you’ve run from His love.
Next, welcome home. And you are home, even if the journey is still taking some time and there is more to do. You will soon find, if you haven’t already, that you are coming back to a Church which is made up of a lot of sinners just like you. We all struggle to root sin out of our lives, sometimes with greater success than other times. God gives us the strength and the grace we need, if we cooperate with Him. I hope you can find a good and holy priest to help you in your return, along with a solid and healthy parish where you can start living out your rediscovered Catholic faith.
To your specific questions.
1) Remaining chaste is a challenge even in the best of circumstances, but this is what God calls us to. As Christians, we are called not only to avoid sin, but also to avoid near occasions of sin. God doesn’t ask this of us just to be mean or to prevent us from doing what we want. He really does know what is best for us. If I were trying to diet, but prepared a large bowl of spaghetti alla carbonara every night and set it on the table while I munched on celery sticks, I would torture myself needlessly. This is a major step, but you should consider the steps needed to move out on your own, maybe in with a family member or a girl friend for a bit, and then to pray and discern whether or not to proceed towards marriage with this boyfriend. At first, ask your boyfriend to start sleeping on the couch. If he respects you, and is a gentleman (the kind of guy you really should consider marrying), he will do so graciously, even if he has not yet joined you on your return to the Church.
2) In most dioceses in these United States, priests are given the faculty to lift the penalties that apply to sins such as abortion and apostasy. If you are not certain, a quick anonymous call to the diocesan chancery office (ask for the Chancellor’s office, or the Tribunal) should clear it up. When you go to make your confession, it would probably be a good idea to make an appointment because you may need a little extra time not afforded when others are in line behind you. An appointment does not necessarily mean you must confess face-to-face. You can ask Father if he would be willing to meet you in the confessional in the church at a fixed time. Abortion is a serious sin, as is apostasy, but they are not unforgivable sins. There is not unforgivable sin if you are prepared to ask forgiveness of God and His loving mercy. Before or after your confession, you might want get in touch with Rachel’s Vineyard. They provide invaluable service in helping to heal the wounds caused by abortion.
3) You do not sin by attending Mass even though you haven’t been fully reconciled yet. Attending Mass is a marvelous way to cooperate with the grace that God is giving you at right now. Hopefully, it’s fueling the hunger for the Blessed Sacrament and the state of grace that is your goal, and deepening your love for Christ and His Church.
One of Satan’s biggest tricks – lies – is to convince us, before we sin, that the sin we are tempted with at that moment is minor (“It’s no big deal, just go ahead and do it, it’s really not all that bad”). Then, once we have committed sin, the Enemy changes his tune and tries to convince us that our sins are so horrible that God couldn’t possibly love us, that we should just stay away from the Church, stay away from Mass, stay away from prayer and sacramentals because we are so filthy and disgusting and sinful. Don’t let the Enemy trick you. Yes, your sins may be serious, but God’s grace and mercy are vastly bigger. If you haven’t already, get a small bottle for some holy water from the Church, get a blessed Rosary and pray it. Keep it in your pocket or your purse. Get a blessed Crucifix and keep it in your home. These steps will help you move more and more close to God.
You are not alone and, with the help of God and the prayers of many, you can do this!