How the Hell?

How the Hell are we Helping If We Do Not Tell
the Truth About Sexuality and Marriage?

Dear Brethren,

I received a number of emails from friends after Respect Life Sunday saying that they heard little, if anything, about life and family from the pulpit. It is as if some pastors are afraid of preaching the Gospel of Life, or have something more important to talk about even when it is chosen as the day to preach on precisely these issues.

The failure to preach the Gospel of Life is not only a U.S. problem. During HLI’s conferences, I hear the same comments from around the world. I bring this up when I speak to seminarians, priests, and bishops – many times the only message the faithful will hear about these incredibly urgent pastoral and moral questions is at Mass.

Generally, Catholics might hear a homily on abortion once a year. They might hear an occasional reference to euthanasia – a subject some deem easier to preach about – but most usually never hear references to contraception, homosexuality, promiscuity, pornography, cohabitation or divorce.
It is also not helpful when Church leaders accept the false caricature that “the Church is always talking about these issues,” so it’s about time we talked about something else. Apparently “the Church” has not sufficiently talked about issues in a way that helps the political party that now treats abortion as a “human right.”

Fr. Shenan J. Boquet’s, Human Life International Open Letter


A Sucker Punch.

When one cardinal said two years ago that those Catholics who were in second civil unions without annulment of their marriages should not be expected to be heroes by being celibate, many couples who had been abstaining from sex felt like they had been punched in the gut. What had they been sacrificing for? Such a position makes it sound like Jesus’ teaching on marriage is just too hard to follow. We know better than Jesus. We are more pastoral. It is even more hurtful when the cardinal’s superior also seems to accept and repeat this characterization of Church teaching as being uncompassionate.

It is true that priests and bishops are people too. When they preach in a way that displeases people not only might they lose parishioners, they may also lose collection revenue and invite nasty e-mails and face-to-face conversations after Mass. Most of us know the risks too well.


How the Hell

But, my brothers, we have given our lives to a Man who submitted to a gruesome and humiliating death! We follow Our Lord, who died on a cross for us! If we love those whom we are given to serve in our parishes – let me choose my words carefully here – how the hell are we helping them if we do not tell them the truth – the Good News – about sexuality and marriage? These are pastoral issues, and cannot be reduced to some obscure teaching that was meant for another time! Pope Saint John Paul II knew this well:

The Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus’ message. Lovingly received day after day by the Church, it is to be preached with dauntless fidelity as “good news” to the people of every age and culture. (Evangelium vitae 1)

My God, my God, why have we forsaken you? How did we let ourselves come to the belief that you, Our Lord, meant for our lives to be as easy as possible? That Your Law — what You told us is what those who love you will follow — can only be held up when it happens to find agreement with our fallen culture?


The Violence of Contraception

Why are we not protecting married couples from the violence of contraception — the divorce of unitive and procreative aspects of the beautiful gift of sexuality? Why are we afraid of helping our brothers and sisters to live in truth, according to their dignity?

What is our role and duty in Christ – in truth and charity?

No one has said that we must only preach about life and family issues. Anyone who claims differently is ignorant or is trying to manipulate the listener. As priests we must prayerfully discern how to bring the Word of God directly to those we serve in a way that they can hear. We absolutely must remind the faithful of their obligation to serve in solidarity with those in need, to be generous with their material gifts. We owe it to our congregations to remind them of the goodness of Truth and Beauty – the goodness of life, of God’s creation and our responsibility to be stewards of what we’ve been given. We have to remind people that our faith cannot be reduced to rules, but is based on Love.

But we must never accept the false representation of Church teaching on life and marriage as lacking compassion, or pretend it was made for another time. We must not be afraid to tell the truth about life and family, as there are no more immediate or urgent pastoral issues that our families are dealing with at home or in the public square.

Preaching on these issues on Respect Life Sunday is a bare minimum – a starting point. We are forming hearts and minds so that the faithful can in freedom choose wisely and lovingly when the moment of heroism – even everyday heroism for those with great challenges – comes their way. It is not “pastoral” to ignore the loving doctrine we have been given and offer solutions that soothe and confuse. This is not love.

Link to article on

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Father Shenan J. Boquet
President, Human Life International

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6 comments to How the Hell?

  • marie

    Well said! There are so many people who hunger to hear guidance from our church on these topics. I guess the political correctness has invaded even the Catholic Church, so we must continue to pray for our priests, bishops, pope, and parishes for the faith and courage to teach on these evils.
    At first, the collection basket might drop in contributions and many may walk out. But God will honor it and his word will convert the hearts of many.
    God Bless!

  • Mariann

    I was just asking someone today if those who called the Extraordinary and Ordinary Synod on the Family were really seeking to be pastoral, they would have sought out those faithful who have successfully remained a family, how they dealt with the many difficulties that do occur in our lives as well as those striving for holy families. They would have sought out those who understand that marriage is not 50/50 for that falls way too short but rather marriage is 100/100 (the ideal) to be strived for at all times. Our Lord gave us the clearest way to love–sacrifice. When we desire to help those who are failing, we find out how to help them succeed; hence drawing from the enormity of those faithfully living celibate lives that remarried.

    Those who came to undermine the Lord and His Bride, the Church, are leading their flock to mortally wounding sin. Pray for their awakening/conversion before they succeed with their evil ideology.

  • Lynette

    When, as an NFP teacher, I was asking someone high up in our chancery why we just could not break through to most parishes to have a comprehensive marriage preparation program with NFP taught to all engaged couples, he told me quite frankly that it would never happen on a large scale due to the “idolatries” of priests; they don’t believe in the teachings of the Church on marriage because they don’t want to be held to the same standards of chastity and purity. I understand there are some solid priests out there who simply are afraid of the backlash, but in our diocese there is an unorganized type of undermining. Then they, the pastors and others, wonder at low Mass attendance, closing Catholic schools, the low numbers of people who do not tithe, all examples of weakened generosity, which they have learned, in part, from their pastors! Not to mention the scandals that have rocked our diocese, due to lack of self-control and true peace and justice teachings, called the Ten Commandments! I fear we are only left to beg the Mercy of God for things to turn around.

  • HV Observer

    Number 1 excuse for not preaching on these topics? “It doesn’t fit with the Mass readings of the day.”

    Solution: Bishops instructing their priests to preach on these topics, even if they don’t fit with the readings.

  • Michael Darlak

    Well received commentary Fr Sheenan. I agree the time for Protestant ideologies which have become nominal in Catholic Homilies must end.

  • tg

    But Father, you are sounding like rigorist Pharisee – don’t you know modern people can’t live by these rules. (Just been sarcastic and imitating those Church leaders in high places who say this.) Thank you Father. Human Life International is one of the few truly Catholic organizations I am proud to support.

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