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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

O. J. Logic

If you're visiting with a Catholic family member, and that family member openly (and rather proudly) admits to committing a number of mortal sins on a regular basis and then says something like, "I need my sins to get me through life, so they are just venial sins, not mortal sins for me..." -- are you obliged to attempt some gently worded correction? And when that family member expects to go to Mass with you on Sunday, are you obliged to suggest that you both go to confession beforehand? And if that family member says, "I don't go to confession, because I can't stand the guilt trip," and then goes to church with you and your small children on Sunday, are you obliged to suggest that maybe that family member ought to refrain from receiving the Eucharist?

I guess what I am asking is, aren't we supposed to look out for the souls of our loved ones and help each other achieve holiness? And when do we add action (speaking up) to our passive efforts (prayer, having Masses said for the person, etc.)?

I can't figure out why people don't apply this thinking, "I know the Church says this is a sin, but I don't think it's a sin, at least not for me, so it's not a sin for me," to other areas of their lives.

"Yes, Officer, I realize the light was red, but as I didn't see any other cars coming, I realized that I could cross the intersection safely. Isn't that what the lights are for, to make sure we don't run into each other? Mission accomplished."

"No, Professor, I found "The House of Seven Gables" boring and repetitious so I decided to read the last Harry Potter book instead. The point of the assignment was to see if I can write a critical analysis of a fictional work, so we're good, right?"

"I was here at work instead of home on my behind, so, even though you've noticed that I'm playing poker on my monitor here, you still have to pay me. I'm here if you need me."

Can you imagine trying to get away with that? Why does God have to put up with this idiocy? Oh, right. Loving and merciful.

Geez Louise.

I think of it as O.J. Logic. I believe Mr. O.J. Simpson truly believes he is innocent of any crime. Here's how the logid works. Mr. Simpson believes that his wife deserved to be killed (and that other man just got in the way). Since she deserved to be killed he didn't do anything wrong when he killed here and is therefore innocent.

Let's go hog wild and apply the same logic to the laws of physics, that way when this person hits the brakes on their car while going 60mph wearing no seat belt they won't go through the windshield because while other bodies in motion remain in motion, theirs does not.

So the question is, what do we do about it? I do think one should point out, without engaging in the argument, that the Ten Commmandments and the laws of the Church are either God's laws or they or not. This person seems to be interested in being a Catholic which means following the tenets of the faith, not the tenents of what Joe Schmoe cobbles together for himself and his comfort level.

Send him to me. I'll box his ears, make him stand in the corner, kneel on dried peas, wash his mouth out with soap, put his nose in a circle on the blackboard, clap erases together and write a thousand times, "I will not make up my religion." Whatever it takes.

As for Communion, we do not have the Communion Rail Police, or mortal sin counters. There is no chemical available in the Communion line that points out that something is not right like there is for swimming pools. We all know the deal, but we're just going to have to let it go and mind our own beeswax.


Anonymous said...

"I will not make up my religion"
Thank you so much for the laugh and the truth.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for answering my question, Sister. I do wish I could send the person to you for ear boxing and pea kneeling, but I'm afraid that's just not possible. I'll just keep saying prayers and offering Masses and that sort of thing.

Anonymous said...

I have a question:

Do you know of a special novena-sort of devotion that involves going to nine different churches and praying at the special altars after Holy Thursday Mass?

I'm sure I remember the sisters teaching me about this when I was a child but I don't find anything current about this.

antonina said...

He who eats of the Body of the Lord unworthily, eats his own damnation...

Stacey said...

There's a tradition of going to seven churches that started in Rome:

The Roman tradition probably inspired the similar practices in other parts of the world.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sister Mary Martha,

I enjoy reading your weblog.

Towards the point of the writer to whom you responded, why not point out the Works of Mercy?

In fact, three of the Spiritual Works of Mercy instruct us to:

Instruct the ignorant;
Counsel the doubtful;
Admonish sinners.

So, your faithful writer is right on all points.

Yes! Admonish the sinner. Who cares if he/she doesn't like your admonishment. We can be as gentle as Christ and still tell the Truth.

Yes! We're obliged to attempt some gently worded correction.

Yes! You're obliged to suggest that your family members who take part in the Eucharist unworthily take special heed to their sins! Instruct the ignorant.

Very clear.

Well, now I am rambling.

God bless you, Good Sister.

Pax Christi,

Fr. Ken

Anonymous said...

Can you tell me what's up with St. Philomena? I was reading your archives and saw you had her associated w/ the St. Christopher legend type saints. Isn't there a church in Italy w/ her remains.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Fr. Ken. I am not the questioner, but after reading Sr.'s witty response I kind of felt let down. I know our pastor would agree with Sr.in the, "mind the plank in your own eye" type thing, but he would never really give advice in this regard. It is refreshing to read your answer to this dilemma.

Anna B. said...

There is no chemical available in the Communion line that points out that something is not right like there is for swimming pools. LOL!!


Arkanabar Ilarsadin said...

If I'm not mistaken, dear Sister, mortal sin requires grave matter, full knowledge, and free consent. An actual psychological compulsion would prevent the sin from being mortal.

But I would think that should result in statements like "I wish I could stop," rather than "But I need my sins to get through."

WhiteStoneNameSeeker said...

Knitting my own religion was nearly my downfall. I don't recommend it.
I think you hit the nail on the head Sister. I can remember thinking "It doesn't really FEEL like a sin..." I was a complete twit.

SL Hansen said...

>>>>But I would think that should result in statements like "I wish I could stop," rather than "But I need my sins to get through."<<<<<

I agree. A person who has a gambling addiction is one thing. A person who says he "needs to" pays for his gambling addiction by performing abortions or by stealing money from his infirm mother's bank account is in another situation entirely.

But we all hear the "OJ Logic," as Sister calls it, an awful lot, don't we? Haven't we all had one Catholic person or another admit to using birth control, skipping Mass, staying away from Confession for years and years, supporting the abortion rights movement, etc., etc., because they "need" to?

Frankly, I find a number of Catholic teachings to be a sacrifice to uphold...I just keep telling myself, "Sacrifice is GOOD...sacrifice is GOOD..."

Sarah - Kala said...

As a previous priest of our would say during his homilies: We're Catholics; we have STANDARDS.

Denise said...

Father Ken is very right to point out the Spiritual Works of Mercy. However, if even after our charitable admonishment, instruction, and counsel, an individual persists in sin, we are not off the hook. We must then offer prayers and sacrifices to atone for the sins of others. Pope Benedict XVI wrote about this when he discussed Matthias in his book The Apostles. As Catholics, we believe in a communal salvation as well as individual salvation. Whenever anyone sins, he damages the entire Mystical Body of Christ.

Anonymous said...

But we are not required to beat the sinner over the head with church teaching at every family gathering, right? It seems to me that one or two well chosen opportunities of 'instructing the ignorant', followed by prayer and sacrifice is the logical path to take. Our family gatherings would be hell otherwise, with the SSPX folks telling us we're all going to hell on one hand, and the Calvary CHapel contingent on the other saying the same thing. As it turns out, I'm going to hell regardless; being too catholic for one half and not catholic enough for the other.

Anonymous said...

I don't think we have to be judgemental or beat someone over the head, even when we are admonishing the sinner.

When someone is so in my face about their sins, as described in the original question, I would just say, calmly, "You are aware that the Church does teach that's a mortal sin and that people in mortal sin should not go to Communion until they've gone to Confession?" Then, whatever they respond, I would continue with, "Well, just so long as you know. How about those Celtics? (or find some other way to change the subject)"

Anonymous said...


"As it turns out, I'm going to hell regardless; being too catholic for one half and not catholic enough for the other."

I've finally started thinking of it as, well, everyone thinks I'm going to hell...but hey! that means I've got a whole lot of people praying for me.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I read your column today, because I'm hoping you can answer a question that applies to this issue. Our priest told us this Sunday morning that it is not a sin to eat meat on Fridays in Lent. His whole sermon centered around the dangers of being too concerned about rules and regulations. He also allows laypeople to clean the sacred vessels and return the consecrated hosts to the tabernacle after Communion, in contradiction of diocesan regulations. Am I justified in being annoyed, or am I being too pharisaical?

bobwong13 said...

Why do catholics address priest as "Father".

Is the commandment "Thou shall not kill" absolute or are there exceptions, like self defence.

Anonymous said...

bobwong13 The commandment's original translation is "Thou shalt not commit murder".
Self defense is not murder. Our troops, in defense of our country do not commit murder. Protecting your home and/or loved ones against an assailant is not murder.
Slaughtering a defenseless unborn baby is murder. Taking innocent life for personal gain is murder.
The Bible also says 'anyone who hates his brother is a murderer and no murderer has eternal life abiding within him'.

Anonymous said...

Praying for you and your mom, Sister.

bill7tx said...

Not wanting to overlook the feast day of my confirmation saint, St. Joseph (who gets overlooked in popular culture because of proximity to the feast day of that Irish/Welsh fellow Patrick), here is a reflection on Jesus' foster father that I found informative: http://disputations.blogspot.com/2007_03_01_archive.html#4689219215143465028

Anonymous said...

Sister, thank you for your answers and for giving them in such an entertaining way. My friend has now given me some holy water, along with the suggestion to put some in my (Protestant) husband's coffee. Is that really a good idea?

Also, which saints are helpful when dealing with mental illness? I need to pray that someone will be diagnosed or not diagnosed correctly.


Sarah - Kala said...

I am a Catholic, Sarah, and I would be appalled if anyone put holy water in my coffee or anything else I'm going to drink without being told about it head of time. Why? Well, I have seen some of the holy water that comes from those cisterns, haven't you? Some of them are dirty (I don't know why), and, the water is cloudy! It isn't fresh water, anyway. Ugh!

The BEST thing you can do to convert people is LIVE OUT YOUR FAITH and PRAY for people. The only stealth approach that works is prayer (and, the Green Scapular, which actually is prayer for the one you give it to, whether they realize it or not).

So, Pray!

Anonymous said...

To the poster above whose priest said it's not a sin to eat meat on Friday during Lent... I'm just another Catholic lay person, but I promise you that he's wrong. Obeying the disciplines of the Church regarding fasting and abstaining is one of the precepts of the Faith. It's not that there's something inherently evil about meat on Friday. It's that the Church has the authority to impose disciplines like this (and to change them from time-to-time, as has happened since Vatican II). To disobey this authority is a sin.

paddy the papist said...

Good to see the ten commandments being mentioned.

If I consistently break the first commandment do I commit sin?

Anonymous said...

To Married2ajoseph,
Thank you for your answer..I got a similar answer from the aggiecatholics website: http://marysaggies.blogspot.com/2008/03/meat-on-fridays-during-lent.html

Anonymous said...


I have a bizarre question for you, but I felt the need to ask it since it is a very primary one. Are you really a Catholic nun or just posing as one? A friend of mine suggested that you are not, especially in light of the fact that you sell things on your site, and that you do not self-identify your congregation or religious order like all other blogging religious do. Please explain, if you care to.

Laura Michele said...

Sarah.. I suffer from anxiety/phobia and at a Catholic bookstore today I happened up a booklet on St. Dymphna, who is a patron St. of the nervous and emotionally disturbed. I am starting a novena tonight! Her shrine is in Belgium, where there is a hospital for the mentally ill. The booklet I have has lots of little prayers and such... it is really nice. I am sure there are many other saints for this cause, but I had to reply when I saw you post since I had just been looking for that myself!! God Bless

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, quite a few people think that Sister Mary Martha is not a real nun. Some think that it's just a persona all in fun. That can't be the case, as she has been fairly explicit about her life as a nun in previous posts. She keeps her anonymity, but she does talk in some detail about her vocation and life. So, she's either who she says she is, or she's somebody who is just plain lying. And, I can't imagine why anybody would start a blog in order to lie about being a nun and then simply answer questions about the Catholic faith. Somebody inclined to lie would, I think, be a lot more outrageous in their blog.

As for selling things... lots and lots of nuns (and monks) do that. It's how they suppoort themselves. Sister Mary Martha has said that she is supporting the three sisters on her one teacher salary. Many nuns didn't work in paid work and so have no social security in their old age. There are fewer new members to convents, and so the care of aging religious is falling to the remaining, aging nuns. If Sister Mary Martha is able to make money selling religious jewelry, that's a good thing.

Anonymous said...

I grew up Catholic, and SMM's answers are just too darn good to be made up by someone pretending to be a Nun. She's the real deal in my book.

Nan said...

If she isn't a nun, she most likely has a handbasket on order.

I'm personally acquainted with a bona fide nun who sells hand-painted china. And I own a book that was written by a nun; don't remember her name but the book is "10 fun things to do before you die"

paddy the papist said...

Nobody so far has seen fit to make a comment to a short question about the first commandment.

The Catholic hierarchy in Ireland recently had a survey conducted to find out how well known this commandment is among Catholics. Anybody like to venture why this should be?

Is it a sin to break the first commandment?

Anonymous said...

nan- Did you read the book?
I'd like to know the 10 things a nun lists as necessary fun before death.
Sister- I fear things aren't going well since we haven't heard from you in awhile. Our prayers are with you.

Anonymous said...

I am the Lord, Your God, you shall not have false gods before me.
Of course it is a sin to break this commandment.

paddy the papist said...

Well thanks be to God.

That is all I needed to know. It is good to see that someone cares about the first commandment.

I intend to publish something about this commandment on my next post and I would very much appreciate comments.

The world and the church is in the state it is in today because this first commandment is ignored by those who are especially bound to observe it.

Thank you to "anonymous" for this. Let us all make a stand for God's rights.

Katy said...

Hey, Paddy... you have your own blog. Why are you pestering the comments in other blogs?

paddy the papist said...

Dear babybreederbabe,

there are others with their own blogs making comments on this site and if sister M.M. wishes to stop me then that is her decision. I appreciate the fact that I have been allowed to do this.

We are not in competition. Are we not all Catholics with a responsibility to each other. Is it not our duty to work so that Our Father's kingdom come on earth as in Heaven?

If we do not fight then we are losing.

The internet is a great gift and means of promoting the Catholic faith which is a duty enjoined on us as soldiers of Christ.

Katy said...

other people use these comments to talk to Sr. or to reply to one another in a conversation inspired by her blog. You're using it like a message board to spread your crazy sedevacantist nonsense.

paddy the papist said...

Dear babybreederbabe

I have made comments on topics on this site before. The person who "downgraded" Saint Philomena had no authority to do so.

I am not a sedevacantist in the sense that you understand it. In the interregnum between the death of a pope and the election of a successor the chair of Saint Peter is vacant.

Even if the successor has been elected unanimously, his election is invalid if there is something that prevents him becoming pope.

It is absolutely necessary for a Catholic to be subject to the Bishop of Rome in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.

I believe in the pope. Do you?

This is my last comment on this blog you will be glad to hear.

One more thing about Saints. Is Saint Therese of Lisieux a saint?
Of course she is.

Is it right to venerate her and pray to her? Again, yes.

Is it worth imitating her sanctity?

Is she a Doctor of the Church? Of course not.

Ebeth said...


Too bad they can't come up with some sort of red dye capsule like they do in banks that explode in a person's mouth leaving red ink all over their face and front.

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