What to say to someone who personalizes the Church’s moral teachings?

I posted to my Facebook wall a blog post about the Church’s stance on contraception. And I do a pretty good job myself defending the Church’s teaching. But one friend personalizes what I had to say. For one, her husband just died a few months ago from cancer and they both are Catholic. She and her husband contracepted so when she hears contraception is wrong and a sin she takes it personal. If fact these were her exact words “I’ll re-engage another time, but for now I need to let it go because I’ll make it too personal.”

I think it was odd because it was my wall post. But I don’t know how to respond. I said my post wasn’t about I do NFP so I’m a better Catholic than contracept Catholics or other Christians, or I’m right you’re wrong, as much as it was a post on Catholic teaching.

This is the route I wanted to go but I have no more words. Catholic moral teaching isn’t so much about condeming the bad as much as it is a proclamation of the good. What would you say to someone who personalizes Catholic morality?? What would you say to her?


Just from reading what you’ve written here – and not knowing your friend – I would take it to mean that she doesn’t want to get into it with you, telling you how wonderful her deceased husband is in the face of your assertion, essentially, that he’s in hell for contracepting. :shrug:

What would you say to someone who personalizes Catholic morality?? What would you say to her?

I’d say nothing. After all, we’re supposed to internalize – that is, ‘make personal’! – the moral teachings of the Church! You’ve hit a nerve with her; don’t let it progress to an argument. That’s my take, anyway…

First off, I agree that your friend is reacting strongly because she knows you’re right about church teaching, and she feels guilty about not following it. But you can’t really go right out and say that.

Second, you should realize that a lot of older Catholics were lied to, by either priests or by other trusted figures. There was a lot of assumption, before Pope Paul VI came out with Humanae Vitae, that of course the Church was going to go along with all the other churches, and that of course birth control was going to become magically church-approved. When Pope Paul VI asked for a panel to study this stuff, it was leaked that a lot of the bishops on the panel were totally okay with birth control. Priests were telling American couples that they could just go ahead and use the Pill as much as they wanted.

And then Humanae Vitae came out, where Pope Paul VI strongly reiterated the Church’s teachings, and where he pointed out that birth control was disrespectful to the whole idea of married life or even of sex. People freaked out. Some of them freaked because their priests had taught them wrong, but some of them decided that the Pope must be wrong. And a lot of priests were defiant and continued to teach people that birth control was okay, for all kinds of reasons.

The other thing to realize is that the old version of NFP, what they called “the rhythm method,” was not terribly accurate because it was new. It was also constantly ridiculed by the media, which was not really fair. (Nobody ridiculed the failure rate of media-approved forms of birth control.)

The very idea of refraining from sex at any time, for any reason, was supposed to be something that would instantly destroy a marriage. A wife who wouldn’t have sex with her husband, even for health reasons, was cold and hateful. A man who wouldn’t have sex with his wife, even for health reasons, was ungenerous. Any lack of sex, and any lack of fulfilling a spouse’s strangest fantasies, was just driving the spouse into the arms of another. And so on, and so forth. The Sixties and Seventies were a weird time.

A lot of these ideas persist, even among younger Catholics, because they hear this stuff from their families or from their doctors. They may not be fully responsible for their sins, because they have been seriously misled.

So yes, you should be gentle. But you should not back down. The teachings of the Church on this topic have been constant since the first century, in the Didache and the Bible.

But you can expect people to be angry, whenever you cover a topic they’ve been misled about. They will be angry and disbelieving at you, first. But if they recognize the truth, they will probably end up angry at whomever misled them. Sometimes it takes a while to get over all the anger. I’ve been ragingly angry myself about being misled on much less personal topics than contraception and marriage, so I imagine your friend is pretty mad.

I would say nothing to her.
The Church’s teaching is clear.
If a person chooses to ignore it, …what can anyone do?
Pray for the repose of his soul.
None of us really know the depth of God’s mercy.

That’s about it.

One of our deacons was talking about a homily he gave that touched on abortion and how 4 or 5 parishioners walked out because they were offended. As he told our class, we should not seek to offend, but at the same time we should not avoid speaking the truth. Many walked away from Christ when he spoke of eating his flesh, but he did not draw them back to placate them. The Church teaches truth and if someone is offended by that truth, then there is not much we can do beyond proclaiming and teaching the truth and praying for the conversion of hearts hardened by sin.

And these are also why posting things on FaceBook are pointless. Either people already know the Church’s teaching and follow, or they choose not to. I don’t believe a personal FB post ever really enlightens anyone.

It may help those that dissent from a teaching of Jesus but might not understand the reason behind the teaching… Now they may not want to understand but that should not prevent us from proclaiming the Truth.


I get that she doesn’t want to get into it and why. What I don’t get is why then comment on my wall? You can’t pull the sympothy card when you engaged me.

Perhaps. But the darker our society gets the more sense and light these Facebook post will make :slight_smile:

Why did she comment? I’m guessing that the answer might be two-fold: first, she’s still working through the process of grieving her husband’s death; that’ll take time and it’s really necessary to realize that those who are grieving will express their grief in a variety of ways – including ways that they wouldn’t otherwise attempt, if they weren’t dealing with the stress of grief.

Secondly, it might be because people tend to look at FB as private, interpersonal communication – rather than the public forum that FB really is. Sometimes, folks lack the good judgment that they’d have in other forums, when it comes to the things they’re willing to share on FB.

Put the two together, and you get what you experienced: a personal response in a public forum that might appear incongruous or inappropriate…

Well that makes good sense. What would you say if anything when they are counter arguing key points in the article? I gave all the Catholic argumetation and I apologized though I didn’t think I needed to for her taking it personal (this is the same person who believes all religions are equal and extremely liberal). Her understanding of Church teaching is the best.

I’m done with arguing my point, at least for the moment. I just wonder what else I could say besides don’t take Church teaching on morality so personal.



They are unknowingly breaking the first commandment by making a false God to their values .

When you look into your mind - did you make your image of God to your own values - or do you see the true God that the Church teaches and bible witnesses to.

I would say nothing. It would be perceived as an attack against her deceased husband. Offer your condolences for her loss, and let her know you’re praying for her husband and for her in this difficult time in her life.

(this is the same person who believes all religions are equal and extremely liberal). Her understanding of Church teaching is the best.

Not sure how these two sentences aren’t in conflict. Am I misunderstanding you?

I just wonder what else I could say besides don’t take Church teaching on morality so personal.

My opinion? Nothing else could be said. To be honest, Church teaching must be taken on a personal basis – since morality is applied individually, person by person. Let it go. You’ve already “admonished the sinner”; now’s the time to “love your neighbor as yourself”. :thumbsup:

I would just keep doing what you’re doing and try to avoid an argument with her. People do things for all sorts of reasons. We can’t keep quiet just because some people, or even most people disagree.

Okay, conversation aside what would you say to someone who personalizes the Church’s teachings on morality? I never admonished the sinner I just posted Church teaching and that’s how she and so Manny others interpret Church teaching. I for one do not feel this is the Church’s primary aim when it comes to morality. I feel the Church’s teachings are more of a promotion of the good than a admonishing of sin. Am I wrong? Again, conversation aside and hypothetically what would you say to someone who personalizes Churchin teaching??

I may not find a satisfying answer but perhaps someone can come close.


You cannot reason with emotions, so don’t try. People personalize issues, even though no one has made any accusations, are reacting to a sore point in their lives. Your friend knows she shouldn’t have contracepted, but she and her husband apparently talked themselves into and now she feels guilty. It’s not your doing–it’s her own conscience bothering her that made her react as she did. Just be patient and kind with her and pray for her–that’s all you can do.

And yes, Church teachings, which are Christ’s teachings, are meant for our ultimate happiness. Obeying them requires we trust in God in the face of all obstacles, secular arguments, temptations, and our own fears. People often give in when they think obeying God will not make them happy, but God does knows best–something that is hard for us fallen humans to accept. Your friend may never reconcile herself to the fact that she committed sin by contracepting, but that’s between her, her confessor and God. I’m afraid you can’t help her with that. She has to come to realize it herself.

Amen to you for not being shy about publicly posting Catholic morality!

As many orders said - some will always take it as an attack. Our society largely believes that communicating an absolute moral code is offensive. In order words - it’s whatever works for you… that is the true “good”. People who try to tell you anything to the contrary are offensive.

I once heard an apologist put it this way- we should proclaim the truth, but in certain cases, only if someone can absorb it. If they cannot, then don’t force it.

I would just let it go but I would not apologize for it.

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