Dr. Ken initially was unsure about posting this page on the Gratia Plena web site, because the answers to many of these questions below require a certain degree of interaction and discussion in order to ensure that there is clarity and understanding.  The tipping point was a reminder that the term “Catholic” can be thrown around casually and thus can be greatly misunderstood by the public.  One need only to consider certain “Catholic” politicians and other celebrities spotlighted in the media to see how confusion and controversy can come about.  For this reason, we post the following to help you understand what we believe.

How does psychotherapy or counseling from a Catholic foundation differ from secular approaches?

Every therapist or counselor has personal values and beliefs about human beings, about what causes problems, and about the possible solutions to these problems.  Some therapists are not comfortable disclosing their values and beliefs in advance to a prospective client, and in fact there are many therapists who may not be very aware of their own belief systems.  We operate from a perspective that is consistent with our Catholic faith and with biblical teaching.  We are ready, willing, and able to describe our values and beliefs and how these inform the therapy that we provide.

There are numerous times in therapy in which Catholic beliefs and values help define a problem and what options might be available.  For instance, a young woman with an unexpected pregnancy may feel that her only option is to get an abortion.  We at Gratia Plena, recognizing the sanctity of life beginning from conception, could not recommend that the young woman consider abortion, and so would instead help her consider other options.  For another illustration, in a recent public discussion among secular psychologists about child exposure to pornography, one psychologist suggested that we should not assume that pornography is harmful to children.  We believe for many reasons that pornography is always harmful to those to create it and to those who examine it.  To give a final example, we recognize the sanctity of marriage and thus place a high value on saving marriages that may be in trouble.

All of us at Gratia Plena are actively “practicing” Catholic who have a good knowledge of the Church and a deep respect for what the catechism teaches.  We value the spiritual dimension of life and devote time regularly to our own spiritual growth and development.

Is counseling from a Catholic foundation better or more effective than secular therapy approaches?

This is a difficult question to answer.  Studying the effectiveness of therapy has for a long time been a great challenge and mission in the field of Psychology.  We do know that some approaches are more effective than others for certain types of problems, and that some therapists have better success than others.  We know that overall, psychotherapy is helpful.  As a first choice, we make use of any and all identified Best Practices and Evidence-Based Practices known in the field, while still operating from a foundation of his own perspective on the human person, human relationships, and the nature of psychological difficulties.  This knowledge base is ever changing and evolving, and so we have a responsibility to stay current on research and to develop and refine o counseling skills on an our going basis.  We also evaluate research and techniques from a Catholic perspective, to ensure that they do not conflict with our faith.

How is sin involved in mental illness or addiction?  Should we excuse the behavior of addicts or persons with a mental illness since they can’t control themselves?

Outside of cases of demonic influence, people do not have an affliction, whether it is a physical or mental illness, because of any sins they or their family may have committed.  In fact, in the New Testament description of the healing of a blind man (John 9:1-6), we hear Jesus being asked about this point.  He indicates that the man was not blind because of any sin.  Still, there are Christians who believe this even today.  Any human being is capable of falling into sin.  A person with a very severe mental illness like schizophrenia for example, may not be responsible for his or her own behavior when symptoms are at their worst.  Most people with a mental illness are in control of their behavior.

Addiction is another matter.  It is part of the nature of an addiction for a people to become progressively “turned in on” themselves, to not care about others, and to become unconcerned about their own behavior and how it impacts the community.  Therefore, it would seem difficult if not impossible, for a true addict not to be in the midst of some type of sin.  Part of the process of recovery from mental illness or addiction is to learn humility and focus trusting and developing one’s relationship with God, and to heal broken relationships with others.  We may decide to accept that God has the power to heal us and the desire to take care of us, if we allow him to do so.

It is certainly possible that because of sin we come to experience a number of difficulties in our lives, and that we are then vulnerable to certain mental afflictions.  Regardless of our struggles, we are all called to repentance, restoration, progressive freedom from sin, and wholeness.  Discussion about this topic leads to the next one…

Will a Catholic therapist at Gratia Plena judge me and point out my sin?

God is our ultimate judge, and we trust in God’s right judgment because God is all knowing and is full of wisdom.  It is not the job of a counselor or therapist to pass judgment on a person who is suffering and asking for help.  To pass judgment in therapy would actually be counterproductive.  Instead, we are focused on the healing process.  Sometimes therapy involves confrontation of behavior, but this is different from judgment and condemnation of the person.  Loving confrontation, when appropriate and when done at the right time in the right spirit, is designed to help people see a part of reality about their behaviors that they may be missing or minimizing.

In addition, clients sometimes are unclear or not aware of the church’s teachings on a particular issue.  If it should come up as part of a counseling issue, we are prepared to discuss the church’s position as a matter of fact, but not in condemnation.  In some cases a client may be referred to a priest or spiritual director for additional consideration of the matter.  The mission of Gratia Plena is not first to evangelize, but instead to respond to a person’s request for the relief of suffering.  This having been said, sometimes through the grace of therapy Catholics who are not actively participating in the sacramental life of the church may return and have a renewed interest and desire for the Eucharist and for Reconciliation and a wish for deepening their faith relationship.

Is it ok for Catholics to take psychiatric medications?

When it is being recommended and prescribed by a competent physician (preferably a psychiatrist), of course it is okay for Catholics to take psychiatric medications.  While some religions may forbid medications or other medical treatments, it is acceptable for Catholics to take medications, including psychiatric medications, if needed and as prescribed.  It is possible that the right psychiatric medication may enable persons with severe mental illnesses to work, relate better to family members, and even be better able to attend to their spiritual growth.  It is not uncommon for persons in counseling or psychotherapy to also take medications to help relieve symptoms.  Some medications may be psychologically or physically addicting, and so a competent psychiatrist will help monitor progress so that this does not occur.  While some psychiatric medications may be required for a long time or even the rest of one’s life, there are other medications that may only be necessary for the short term.

Can Catholics be involved in a Twelve Step program for an addiction?

Absolutely, and in fact it is often recommended by our staff.  The 12-Step approach began about a hundred years ago with “Alcoholics Anonymous” and at the time had a clearly Christian foundation.  Although participants today in 12-Step programs do not have to be Christian and can choose to identify any Higher Power as their own, there is nothing in the 12 Steps approach that is inconsistent with the Catholic faith.  Many years ago Fr. Richard Rohr wrote an excellent article (now a book) on “The Spirituality of the 12 Steps.”  As stated at the beginning of each 12 Step meeting, the 12 Steps are a spiritual program of recovery.  12-Step programs now exist for nearly any addiction.  Many people working the steps will also see a counselor to work on various issues related to their addiction.  For example, an adult person involved in Sex Addicts Anonymous may wish to work with a professional therapist to examine old issues of childhood sexual abuse that play a role in his or her compulsive sexual behavior.

Couldn’t Catholics with mental illness or addiction just be cured by a blessing or anointing, or by “making a confession” (Sacrament of Reconciliation)?

It is certainly possible, as the grace of God is powerful and can accomplish anything.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation is often very healing by itself for any Catholic.  However, just as an Anointing of the Sick may be helpful and bring spiritual healing or even a miracle to a person with cancer, the person may also need to continue receiving chemotherapy.  The same is true with a mental illness or an addiction.  Participation in the sacraments is a key part of the Catholic faith and clients at Gratia Plena are encouraged to do so if they are not already.  As mentioned above, sometimes clients have “fallen away” from the church, and part of the healing and recovery process may be to return to regular participation in the sacraments.  There are also those cases of demonic influence, which cause physical or mental symptoms.  In these cases, medical and psychological treatments will not be effective on their own, and the afflicted person will need to see a priest or an exorcist in addition to a mental health professional.

How is psychotherapy different from spiritual direction?

There are a number of similarities.  Spiritual direction is focused on deepening a person’s relationship with God.  Counseling or therapy is focused on resolving a mental illness or an addiction.  Spiritual direction may also bring emotional healing in addition to spiritual growth.  Counseling and therapy may have a side benefit of freeing up blocks in a person’s spiritual development.  Both psychotherapy and spiritual direction may involve skilled and trained persons who offer service in love, allowing the Spirit to work through them in order to help others.  Spiritual directors and mental health professionals have different training.  A person may elect to work with both a psychotherapist and a spiritual director.

Are you (Gratia Plena) a “Catholic” organization?

This is an important question.  Whether an organization is a university, a hospital, a newspaper, or a church, it can be called “Catholic” only with permission of the local ordinary (bishop, archbishop, or cardinal).  By remaining faithful to the Church in practice, and by demonstrating good stewardship and service to the Catholic community, Gratia Plena hopes to one day obtain this honor and blessing from the ordinary of the Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

In preparation to be deserving of this honor, Dr. Ken has met and will continue to meet with many of the leaders in the Archdiocese and he keeps them up to date on the progress and activities of the organization.  Gratia Plena has committed itself to abiding by the “Standards for Excellence” code for Catholic nonprofit organizations.  It has also taken the “St. Francis Pledge” in order to be a good steward of our Earth’s resources which have been given to us by our Father the Creator.  Dr. Ken and staff will participate in the Virtus training program recommended by the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, to help create safe environments for children and youth in order to prevent child abuse.

Gratia Plena is honored to receive referrals regularly from a number of parish communities.  When invited, we are happy to speak at the functions of groups at various churches across the Archdiocese.  We are also willing and able to consult with clergy, religious, and Catholic business owners.

Is there any other place to find Catholic counseling?  What about Catholic Charities?

Yes, there are other Catholic counselors and therapists working in the community outside of Gratia Plena.  With Gratia Plena, you will be assured that you will receive counseling from a solidly Catholic foundation.  If searching for Catholic counseling outside of Gratia Plena, we recommend that you discuss your Catholic beliefs with a prospective therapist prior to beginning counseling, and that you ask the prospective counselor about his or her own beliefs and values.  Catholic Charities does offer counseling services and they do a wonderful job in their mission to reduce poverty.  The sole mission of Gratia Plena is to bring healing to mental illness and addiction from a strong Catholic foundation.  If you are not able to come to Gratia Plena for counseling for some reason, but would like help finding a good Catholic therapist, we are certainly willing to assist you with your search.

Can a non-Catholic receive services at Gratia Plena?

Absolutely.  We have served and will continue to serve non-Catholics.  Our doors are open to everyone so long as we have time available and there is a good match between the therapist and the client.  Our caseload may become filled at times, but Gratia Plena always seeking to hire more Catholic therapists.  Those clients who are Catholic may feel the most comfortable with our counselors.  There may be special funding to help clients who are requesting services but cannot pay the full fee or do not have insurance.

As mentioned above, Gratia Plena operates from a Catholic basis of belief.  It is possible that a new, prospective client may ask us to help with an issue in a way that would conflict with our Catholic conscience.  If this should occur, we will be happy to immediately make referrals for other therapists in the community that may be more comfortable and skilled with the issue.  Hopefully there can be a good discussion about these issues at the very beginning of therapy or even in the assessment process.

What about New Age Practices and Spirituality?

Most people acknowledge an awareness of a power greater than themselves.  They feel a desire to connect to this power, and sometimes search high and low to gain a better understanding of it.  Some people have become impatient or developed a frustration with organized religion, and wish to find some other path to aid them or help them in their spirituality.  Some will go from church to church to find one with the best music, the best preacher, or a community where they simply feel loved and accepted.

New Age involves a fundamental belief in the perfectibility of the human person by means of a wide variety of techniques and therapies (as opposed to the Catholic view of cooperation with divine grace). (see the Vatican  document on New Age released February 3, 2003, called, JESUS CHRIST THE BEARER OF THE WATER OF LIFE: A Christian Reflection on the “New Age”  2.3.4.1)

It is difficult to separate the individual elements of New Age religiosity – innocent though they may appear – from the overarching framework which permeates the whole thought-world on the New Age movement.  The Gnostic nature of this movement calls us to judge it in its entirety.  From the point of view of Catholic faith, it is not possible to isolate some elements of New Age religiosity as acceptable to Catholics, while rejecting others.

The New Age concept of God is rather diffuse, whereas the Catholic concept is a very clear one.  The New Age god is an impersonal energy, really a particular extension or component of the cosmos; god in this sense is the life force or soul of the world. … Even when “God” is something outside of one’s self, it is there to be manipulated.

This is very different from the Catholic understanding of God as the maker of heaven and earth and the source of all personal life… God is not identified with the Life-principle understood as the “Spirit” or “basic energy” of the cosmos, but is that love which is absolutely different from the world, and yet creatively present in everything, and leading human beings to salvation. (Excerpted from “Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the “New Age”. (Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue)).

Common New Age practices include the use of enneagrams, labyrinths, reiki healing, traditional yoga, transcendental meditation, healing by crystals, psychic healing, reflexology, tarot cards, palm reading, recourse to mediums and psychics, fortune telling and contacting the dead.  There are many other practices and techniques that go by various names that are variations of these basic practices and are similarly at odds with Catholic faith and are therefore to be rejected.   Some of these practices directly and indirectly invite demonic involvement, and are thus extremely dangerous even though they may seem harmless and fun to the casual observer or participant.

Do you agree with the Catholic church’s opposition to artificial contraception?

Yes.  Many sexually active couples assume that artificial contraception should naturally and automatically be a part of their life, whether they are married or not married.  It may prove to be helpful for them to step back and examine the place of sex in their relationship.  This issue also has some bearing on the question of cohabitation outside of marriage which is a topic addressed below.  Sexual expression between a husband and wife is intended to be life giving.  Artificial contraception then naturally interferes with this.

There are approved methods of the Church to support the development of pregnancy or the avoidance of it.  These are natural methods, and the education process allows the couple to join together toward their common goal.  With artificial contraception, the burden is often on only one partner.  Learning the church-approved natural methods provides excellent information for the couple to learn about their bodies and the reproductive process.  This allows the couple to better appreciate the genius of our Creator.

Here is the official position of the Church:  “For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the birth of their children.” (see the Catholic Catechism 2368) … “Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality.”… ” ‘every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil’.” (see the Catholic Catechism 2370)

It is so common today, what’s the problem with couples living together or cohabitating?

This issue is somewhat related to the issue of artificial contraception above.  “Casual” sex or even “committed” sex in a non-marital relationship almost always involves the use of artificial contraception.  Some research today indicates that living together before marriage increases the risk of divorce later.  Couples, especially young people, need to be fully educated about the risks of cohabitation.  Note that this is an issue whether a couple is heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual.

From the Catholic Catechism:  “In a so-called free union, a man and a woman refuse to give juridical and public form to a liaison involving sexual intimacy. The expression “free union” is fallacious: what can “union” mean when the partners make no commitment to one another, each exhibiting a lack of trust in the other, in himself, or in the future? The expression covers a number of different situations: concubinage, rejection of marriage as such, or inability to make long-term commitments. All these situations offend against the dignity of marriage; they destroy the very idea of the family; they weaken the sense of fidelity. They are contrary to the moral law. The sexual act must take place exclusively within marriage. Outside of marriage it always constitutes a grave sin and excludes one from sacramental communion (see the Catholic Catechism 2390).

Some today claim a “right to trial marriage” where there is an intention of getting married later. However firm the purpose of those who engage in premature sexual relations may be, “the fact is that such liaisons can scarcely ensure mutual sincerity and fidelity in a relationship between a man and a woman, nor, especially, can they protect it from inconstancy of desires or whim.” Carnal union is morally legitimate only when a definitive community of life between a man and a woman has been established. Human love does not tolerate “trial marriages.” It demands a total and definitive gift of persons to one another.” (see the Catholic Catechism 2391)

What do you think about Marriage, Separation, and Divorce?

The Catholic Church considers marriage to be a sacred union, a sacramental bond.  Because of its significance, marriage preparation is encouraged and in most cases is required.  Even the federal government today supports marriage preparation as a means of stabilizing relationships and preventing divorce.  Some engaged couples in the process of marriage preparation will discover issues that may lead the couple or either partner into brief counseling before the marriage ceremony.  This is a great use of counseling, when it is approached with the hope of improving and strengthening a relationship as it enters a very serious phase.

In our culture today, we see a reluctance of people willing to participate in the Sacrament of Marriage, and even a hesitance toward seeking the civil ceremony of marriage.  There are many reasons for this, but this reluctance or avoidance leads to problems such as promiscuity and cohabitation.  Unfortunately we also see a significant amount of readiness and willingness of individuals in troubled marriages to consider separation or divorce as an option, and sometimes as the first option.  Families who have experienced a separation or divorce may be in need of healing, whether it is the husband, the wife, or the children involved.

The separation of spouses poses a great danger to the marriage.  However, “there are certain situations in which living together becomes practically impossible for a variety of reasons.  In such cases, the Church permits the physical separation of the couple and their living apart.  The spouses do not cease to be husband and wife before God, and so are not free to contract a new union.  In this difficult situation, the best solution would be, if possible, reconciliation.” (see the Catholic Catechism 1649) Many separated marriages can be saved with some motivation and effort, as well as help from the community or clergy or professionals.

Marriage requires a long-term commitment by a man and woman who are prepared and willing to work on the development and deepening of their relationship over their lifespan, in union with the love of God.  The Church recognizes a validly contracted sacramental marriage as indissoluble, and Gratia Plena believes in trying to strengthen and save marriages.  In practice, we are to presume the validity of a sacramental marriage unless certain criteria exist.  A “competent ecclesiastical tribunal” can examine the situation and “can declare the nullity of a marriage, i.e., that the marriage never existed.  In which case the contracting parties are free to (re)marry, provided the natural obligations of a previous union are discharged.” (see the Catholic Catechism 1629)  “The remarriage of persons divorced from a living, lawful spouse contravenes the plan and law of God as taught by Christ.” (see the Catholic Catechism 1665)

Is it true that Catholics hate Homosexuality and Bisexuality?

It is absolutely not true, although there may be some individual Christians and Christian groups who are misguided on this topic.  Homosexuality and bisexuality are a significant issue in our culture today and a source of great controversy, even among Christians.  After years of careful psychological research on human sexual attraction, scientists have identified that sexual orientation is not a simple “black and white” distinction.  People seem to be heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual in varying degrees.  Sexual identity forms over a number of years and not in any one special defining moment or event.  It is somewhat common for there to be confusion and doubt and questioning for a young person over time during this delicate process.  It is important that significant family members, friends, and bystanders be supportive of this process and not attempt to influence it one way or another.

There are unfortunately some people and organizations who will attempt to lead the vulnerable young person in one direction or another.  It is also possible for any number of unexpected events to increase the complexity of and add some confusion to a young person’s developing sexual orientation:  abuse of any kind (sexual, physical, or verbal/emotional), parenting difficulties or deficiencies, single parent families, pornography, sexual experimentation, bullying from peers, and so on.  A competent therapist can sometimes be of great help to a young person trying sort through these issues.

Despite what some individuals and groups proclaim today, a person’s sexual orientation does not constitute his or her identity.  Sexuality is just one part of one’s identity.  A person’s sexual orientation also does not imply that he or she should behave sexually in any particular way.  Instead, we are all called to honor God with our sexuality, regardless of our sexual preferences.   For example, there is no moral difference between a celibate person with a homosexual orientation and a celibate person with a heterosexual orientation.  And a promiscuous heterosexual person is involved in sin just as seriously as is a promiscuous homosexual or bisexual person.  Having a homosexual or a bisexual orientation is not a sin in the eyes of the Catholic Church.

Here is a key portion of the teaching of the Church on the subject:  “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’  They are contrary to the natural law.  They close the sexual act to the gift of life…(see the Catholic Catechism 2357) The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible.  They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.  Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided… (see the Catholic Catechism 2358)  Homosexual persons are called to chastity.  By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.” (see the Catholic Catechism 2359)  Spiritual direction and/or psychotherapy can be very helpful to these individuals.

Be advised that there are some groups and even some mental health professionals who suggest that they can “change” an adult person’s sexual orientation.  While we need further research on these techniques or “treatments,” it is possible that these approaches are unproven and potentially harmful.  As stated above, sexual orientation is a complex matter, and should be approached with sensitivity and professionalism, always keeping in mind the inherent dignity of the individual as a creation and child of God.

You say that the church believes that a married couple should be open to having children.  What if they are having trouble due to infertility?  Shouldn’t they be allowed to use all of the latest medical technology to conceive?

Infertility is a terribly emotionally painful and frustrating difficulty for some married couples who rightfully want to bear children.  Let us not forget that after all permissible medical interventions have been attempted, adoption may be an option.  If the number of abortions were to decrease, we may see an increase in the number of babies available for adoption.

Here is what the Church has to say on the matter:  “Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. (see the Catholic Catechism 2376) … Techniques involving only the married couple (homologous artificial insemination and fertilization) are perhaps less reprehensible, yet remain morally unacceptable. They dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that ‘entrust the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children’. … Only respect for the link between the meanings of the conjugal act and respect for the unity of the human being make possible procreation in conformity with the dignity of the person.” (see the Catholic Catechism 2377)

You are probably against abortion, right?

Right, because we and the Catholic community believe that life begins at conception.  Therefore, abortion is the termination of life prior to, during, or soon after birth, and so it is always a grave matter.  In addition, abortion is nearly always a traumatic event for the mother involved.  Women who are considering or have experienced an abortion don’t need condemnation, they need healing.  Fathers and grandparents who have been indirectly involved or impacted by abortion also frequently need healing.  As a community, we need to be concerned about the factors that contribute to the problem of abortion in our culture such as poverty, the weakening of the institution of marriage, the weakening of the family unit, a lack of respect for the sanctity of life, and a lack of respect and sanctity for human sexuality as life giving.

In addition, we note that abortion has been and is being used for sex selection and for genocide.  Furthermore, when fertility treatments produce an undesirable number of babies in a pregnancy, abortion unfortunately is commonly used to arrive at a more desirable number.  If during a pregnancy a baby is identified as being at risk for defects or disease, abortion is sometimes suggested and used as an option.  Sometimes these pregnancies are terminated spontaneously and naturally by miscarriage.  However interestingly, sometimes these “at risk” babies are carried to term and unexpectedly born in a healthy state, proving the doctors and other experts wrong.

More so today than ever, there numerous resources available in the community for women with unplanned pregnancies.  A primary resource in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is the Gabriel Project, which was actually started in Texas and has since spread around the country.

Again, let us refer to the official Church position:  “From its conception, the child has the right to life. Direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, is a “criminal” practice, gravely contrary to the moral law. (see the Catholic Catechism 2322) … Because it should be treated as a person from conception, the embryo must be defended in its integrity cared for, and healed like every other human being. (see the Catholic Catechism 2323)

What about capital punishment?

Let us start with the same beginning point as in the abortion issue:  Every life has value and is a gift from God, a creation of God.  It is true that some individuals do pose an extreme danger and evil to the community, and need to be separated from the community in order to protect the community.  These people may also owe a debt to the community for their misdeeds, and be deserving of punishment according to the law.

This does not mean however, that we need to, should, or have the right to end their lives.  Like all of us, these people in jail will face God for their final judgment after death.  Through the recent contributions of DNA testing of evidence, we have also seen numerous examples where the justice system has failed by convicting a person who is later found to be innocent.  The death penalty, when carried out, is of course a sentence that cannot be reversed.  At this time, 17 states in the US have banned capital punishment.

What about Euthanasia?

This issue has to do with deliberate termination of life for a person who is seriously ill, a person who is deformed or disabled, or a person who is suffering greatly either physically or mentally.  This issue has some relation to the issues addressed above of abortion and capital punishment, and sometimes is suggested out of a misdirected sense of compassion.  Some states and countries have now unfortunately passed laws allowing for physician assisted suicide.

Respect for the sanctity of life is again a central concern.  If you have ever had the experience of putting a beloved pet to sleep, you may have experienced great inner turmoil and trauma over the decision.  Just imagine if you were faced with this issue regarding a family member like your mother or grandfather.  Let’s be clear that what we are talking about here does not have to do with removing a terminally ill person from a life support system.  It is important for every adult person to address the issue of their final days in their living wills and/or advance directives.

The Church believes that “Intentional euthanasia, whatever its forms or motives, is murder. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator.” (see the Catholic Catechism 2324).

In the media, it seems that Catholics believe all kinds of things, and so it is very confusing, even sometimes for Catholics themselves, to know the position of the Church.  What does the Church really believe?

It can indeed be confusing.  We see in movies or the news that a person, who is known to be Catholic or goes to the Catholic Church, takes a position in support of certain social issues like abortion.  Remember, individuals are free to do whatever they wish.  As human beings, endowed with special intellectual gifts from our Creator, we are called to use our thinking and reasoning to seek the truth.  However, the position of the Church on the major issues of our time is quite clear and is not lukewarm.  These positions have been carefully determined and nearly always have a beautiful rationale to support them.  That is why in this website document of “Frequently Asked Questions” for Gratia Plena, we have included references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church in certain key places.

An individual Catholic or some small groups of Catholics may disagree privately or publicly with the teachings of the Church, but that doesn’t change the Church’s position or indicate that the position is unclear or even in flux.  It simply means that the individual or small group is not in agreement.  One of the difficulties of this disagreement portrayed by the media is that this can be confusing for the public and for the Catholic community, and it can cause division.  The faith and teachings of the Church are not democratically determined.  They are determined by proper understanding of the Holy Scriptures, the teaching of the magisterium, and over 2000 years of tradition.  The Enemy of the Church and of God seeks to divide, dissuade, and muddy the waters of faith in order to accomplish the goal of stealing souls.  This is why it is so important to have a solid anchor, or a rock for the foundation of our faith.  This is why the faithful community joins together in strength and truth, calling upon each other and the communion of saints to remain steadfast in Spirit.

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